The northern and eastern parts of Senegal are particularly affected by seasonal risks. These areas lie in the Sahel, a region immediately below the Sahara, stretching the width of the African continent, where recurrent extreme weather and food crises have eroded the resilience of people living there. People in these regions do not have enough to eat and acute malnutrition rates regularly exceed emergency thresholds. In 2018, around 814 000 people in Senegal were in need, and 120 000 malnourished children required nutritional care.
The latest Cadre Harmonisé, a needs-assessment tool used by governments and humanitarian agencies in western Africa, foresees that, in 2019, around 375 000 people will require emergency food assistance during the so-called lean season - the period between June and September when food reserves are depleted and crops are yet to be harvested. It is the most critical time of the year for countries in the Sahel region.
In 2018, the Sahel faced a crisis due to a combination of erratic rainfall patterns, price inflation, and insecurity. The number of people facing food shortages increased alarmingly and Senegal was not spared. In 2017, there were only 16 days of rain in the north of the country. The lack of rain resulted in a fall in crop production and has had a negative impact on pastoralists' livelihoods and those who depend on subsistence farming.
There are five regions in Senegal with very high rates of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition. In 2018, 484 000 people needed nutritional assistance, including 120 000 children and 25 000 pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
Over the last years, funding provided by the European Union to Senegal has covered the treatment of 20 400 severely undernourished children below five years of age. This figure amounts to 17 percent of the number of children affected by the most severe and life-threatening form of malnutrition. The EU also provides funding to humanitarian partners assisting local health centres in screening children for severe malnourishment and ensuring that they are treated. Such health centres also prevent undernourishment in pregnant women, which subsequently reduces the risk of them giving birth to underweight children.
During particularly difficult years, the EU provides support to families who do not have enough to eat. Food assistance can take various forms such as food distribution, the transfer of cash via phones or the handout of food vouchers. Another type of relief aid helps pastoralists to improve agricultural and pastoral production.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR), which aims to mitigate the risks that extreme weather can bring about, is another priority action in Senegal. The geographical areas chosen for such assistance are those that are most prone to the lack of food and undernutrition, those are often locations where assistance has been or is being provided. In this regard, these DRR efforts have two aims: to increase communities’ resilience to withstand multiple risks, and to strengthen national and local capacities. The latter involves different measures: analysis, preparedness and response to natural disasters, especially through early warning systems, and having in place health and undernutrition shock-responsive services.
In addition to covering the most immediate needs, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) department works in close cooperation with the EU’s department for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) in order to step up the resilience of the most vulnerable communities. While humanitarians tackle emergency needs, the role of development organisations is to address the root causes of the problem.