Donkeys pulling water carts in Mauritania

On the west coast of Africa, Mauritania remains one of the poorest and most troubled countries in the world.

Working animals in Mauritania are depended upon by thousands of families to earn a basic living of sometimes only a few dollars per day. Since we started working here in 2001, there has been a huge demand for our services and we provide more than 80,000 treatments to working animals each year.

Mauritania at a glance

• Population: 4.3 million
• Area: 398,000 sq km
• Location: West Africa
• Capital city: Nouakchott
• Estimated number of working equines and camels: 1.59 million

SPANA Operations

Veterinary Care:
• Two SPANA centres, one in the capital city Nouakchott and one in the town Rosso
• Two mobile veterinary clinics visiting areas in Nouakchott and the town Rosso
• Last year our small but dedicated team provided over 83,000 treatments to working animals

• Adult education programme informing owners of how best to care for their animals
• Our schools education programme currently consists of children from Nouakchott visiting the SPANA centre six times a year to participate in animal welfare lessons
• We reach nearly 600 children each year through our education work


SPANA Mauritania director Bebeha Ahmed tells us about a typical day at our busy centre in the capital of the country, Nouakchott.

7am – The team arrive at the centre and the grooms start preparing food for the inpatients and cleaning out the stables, whilst the vet and technician prepare the daily medications. They then check on the inpatients, which are mainly donkeys suffering with problems including fistulous withers, wounds and lameness. The team checks the temperature, pulse and respiration rate of all the inpatients; and then administer their medicines and clean and redress any wounds.

8am – The outpatient clinic opens and animals are brought in for the treatment of illness and injuries, as well as routine procedures like dentistry and foot trimming. The vet, technician, groom and two farriers are kept very busy, while Baba the teacher makes a record of all owners that bring their animals in. The majority of patients are donkeys used to pull carts either carrying water or goods such as building materials around the city, with fewer horses that are mainly used to pull taxi carts and occasionally for riding.

SPANA vet in Mauritania9am – Two mornings a week classes of schoolchildren come to the centre accompanied by a teacher, to learn about animals, their role in the environment and their needs. Baba takes the lessons with Wan the vet technician assisting.

12pm – The team packs equipment into the truck and heads off for the mobile veterinary clinics. They visit two or three water points in the town where they will treat mainly donkeys. The team see many wounds caused by badly made harnesses and also from beating. The donkeys do not wear bridles so their drivers steer them by hitting them on one side or the other with a stick. Each water point is visited every month, with Baba the education officer attending to advise owners on how to steer the donkeys.

3pm – After a long day the team return to the centre for final checks on the inpatients before heading home. There is a guardian who lives at the stables and takes care of the inpatients overnight. He will give them feed and water and check on them, and if an inpatient needs treatment or an emergency arrives, the vet technician Wan always comes back to see to them.

Watch SPANA Ambassador Ann Widdecombe talk about work in Mauritania.