Senegal is marked by chronic vulnerabilities and seasonal risks, particularly in the north and east, where food insecurity is high and acute malnutrition rates regularly exceed emergency thresholds. The 2018 outlook is particularly worrying; the previous rainy season was erratic which led to a severe deficit of pasture in the north – a serious threat to livestock and those who depend on it to survive, as well as poor crops. As a result, there are over 750 000 people in need, and around 120 000 malnourished children will require life-saving nutritional care.
Part of Senegal’s territory lies within the Sahelian band, where recurrent climatic shocks and food crisis have eroded the resilience of the most vulnerable populations. This year, the Sahel faces a serious crisis due to a combination of erratic rains, food price inflation and insecurity. The number of people facing food and nutritional crises is alarmingly on the rise. Senegal is not spared. In 2017 there were only 16 rainy days in the north of the country, the lack of rainfall resulted in a large deficit of biomass. Forage levels are similar to, or worse than, those in 2011 to 12 which were marked by extreme drought. This has a direct negative impact on the pastoralists' livelihood, because they depend on their cattle being able to graze, as well as on those who depend on subsistence farming. As a consequence, the so-called lean season, when the food stocks are depleted and the food insecurity and nutritional status quickly deteriorates, is expected to happen as of March, instead of June.
The latest Cadre Harmonisé, a tool used by the governments and humanitarian agencies in west Africa to assess population needs, shows that 320 000 people are currently in crisis phase in terms of food insecurity. This figure could rise to 750 000 during the peak of the lean season.
Very high rates of severe acute malnutrition are recorded in five regions of Senegal. Over 484 000 people will need nutritional assistance, including 120 000 children and 25 000 pregnant and lactating women.
In Senegal, the Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) supports the treatment of 20 400 severely undernourished children under 5 years of age, equivalent to 17% of children affected by the most severe and life-threatening form of malnutrition. The Commission provides funding to humanitarian organisations to provide support to health centres treating severely undernourished children. The Commission also funds food assistance in the form of in-kind donations and cash transfers to vulnerable families in high-risk areas to prevent deterioration of their situation.
During this particularly tough year, greater support will be needed to food-insecure households in crisis situation. Support can take the form of unconditional food assistance with cash transfers, distribution of food or vouchers to exchange for food, or distribution of farm inputs to improve agricultural and pastoral production. In addition, with the number of severely malnourished children expected to reach 23 000 in 2018, the screening and treatment of undernourished children, as well as the prevention and management of acute malnutrition in pregnant women, will be essential.
Disaster risk reduction is another priority in Senegal. Activities aimed at mitigating the risks of climatic shocks take place in locations where food and nutritional assistance has been or is being provided. This way, one response reinforces another and the assistance is given in a more integrated way. The geographic areas chosen for this type of assistance are those most affected by food insecurity and undernutrition. The goal is, on one hand, to increase the populations’ resilience to multiple risks and on the other, to strengthen the national and local capacities in terms of analysis, preparedness, and response to natural disasters, in particular with functional early warning systems, and shock-responsive services in the domains of health and undernutrition.
In addition to covering the most immediate needs, the Commission works in close coordination with the EU directorate in charge of development and long term assistance (DEVCO) in order to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable populations. While humanitarians react to emergency situations, development organisations aim to address the root causes of the problem.