Distributing food to help people going through the lean season in Sagata

Published: 23 August 2012 14:09 CET

By Nathalie Bonvin

Rains have already started in Senegal. Baobab leaves are growing, the green grass is reappearing. Along the road that took us to Sagata, a village in the area of Louga, however, the animals that have survived the drought are still very skinny. Humanitarian assistance started some time ago, and will be needed until the next harvest in October, should the rainy season be good enough to end this year’s food crisis.

It is within this context that the Senegalese Red Cross Society has organized a food distribution post in the community house. Many people are waiting to get food, queuing in the sun, waiting patiently for volunteers to give them enough to cope for the following month.

Abdoulaye, 39, who has been volunteering for the organization for the past 12 years, was supervising the distribution. Volunteers have to check beneficiary cards, cross-check them with the distribution lists and check ID-cards before preparing the amount of food for every household, that beneficiaries will bring home with 'charettes'.

Amongst all the Senegalese Red Cross Society volunteers you could spot Hughes, 26, a French student who decided to spend his summer vacation volunteering for a full month. “The situation is not easy”, Hughes says, “but this is an excellent initiative, even if we cannot satisfy everyone”.

Mami, 20, has been volunteering for the Senegalese Red Cross for the last two years. “I’m impressed by the shared will of the volunteers to support the most affected.”

Momodou, 60, has four children, one of them under five. Before starting receiving food assistance, he had to sell most of his assets in order to feed his family. He has only a few animals left, which are too skinny to be sold on the market. Before getting food assistance from the Red Cross, his household daily meals were reduced to once a day.

This distribution site is covering 73 villages, for a total of 810 households and 6,386 people. A total of 15 volunteers are working around the clock to make sure all of them can get their food ratio to cover the most basics needs. This is part of the food distributions undertaken by the Senegalese Red Cross Society to assist almost 400,000 people in the most affected regions of the country to go through  the food crisis.

However, distributing food is not enough. What is needed are longer-term activities to support people’s livelihoods, giving them the resources to cope on their own. But in order for the national Red Cross society to be able to support those actions, more funds are needed so that when the next food crisis arises, people will be able to cope on their own.