Senegal: Red Cross and ECHO bring a smile back to thousands of families affected by food insecurity

Published: 1 December 2016 15:23 CET

By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC


It’s a bright and sunny morning in Soutouta, a remote village located in Goudiry, in Eastern Senegal. Usually calm at that time of the day, the public square of the village is now bustling and full of people, all waiting patiently in line for their food vouchers.


“Last year’s harvest was very poor. This year, it is even worse,” said Dialang Gassama, a woman living in Soutouta. “We sowed much but harvested almost nothing.”


Crop failure caused by erratic rainfall has led to serious food shortage in the area. For instance, in Dialang, thousands of families in the department of Goudiry, in the region of Tambacounda are struggling, on a daily basis, to put food on table. Across the department, agricultural officials are reporting significant crop failure.


“This year, we have recorded less than 300 mm of rainfall compared to last year. Out of 15 communes of the (Goudiry) department, only areas such as Kouthiary and Koulor have had a fairly good harvest.” said Sory Bâ, head of the agricultural department.  


To survive, many families are turning to extreme coping mechanisms such as reducing the number of meals; selling their belongings; searching for wild foods; going into crippling debt or moving into town to look for work.


“We only eat one meal per day and most of the time, we go to bed hungry. The situation is very difficult and stressful when, like in my case, you have four children to feed,” laments Dialang Camara.


In October, the Senegalese Red Cross distributed food vouchers to 1,594 families in the department of Goudiry, through a food security project funded by ECHO, with technical support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


The Red Cross food vouchers enabled families to buy basic foods at local shops in their villages, in order to meet their immediate needs.


“This is the second distribution we have organized in the department and the third one will take place by the end of November,” explains Boubacar Badj, field project coordinator at the Senegalese Red Cross.


Romain Guigma, operations manager for the IFRC Sahel cluster, explained: “The vouchers gave families the flexibility to buy the equivalent of one month’s food supply according to their preference.” “In most cases, vouchers are preferable to distributing food parcels as they have the extra benefit of stimulating local markets and ensuring food availability throughout the lean season.”


With her voucher, Dialang has collected two bags of 50kg of rice, cooking oil, sugar and other food items. “This will help us survive for some weeks,” said Dialang with a large smile. “We thank the Red Cross and its partners for this invaluable support”.


The Senegalese Red Cross has been implementing, since the end of May 2016, a programme that aims to prevent acute malnutrition among the households hardest-hit by the food crisis in the department of Goudiry (region of Tambacounda) and in the region of Louga. Funded by ECHO, with the technical support from the IFRC, the programme provides food assistance to 1,594 households through vouchers in the department Goudiry while in the Louga region, the focus is to detect and prevent acute malnutrition among children under five years.