One day after being sworn in on April 2, Senegal’s new President Macky Sall reversed months of public denial of the hunger affecting over 800,000 of his people – part of the Sahel-wide crisis affecting 16 million inhabitants – by calling on partners to help the country get food to those in need.
UN agencies and NGOs are struggling to raise enough money to get programmes working so they can catch up with the steadily rising number of hungry people.
After Sall appealed to bilateral and multilateral partners to help rural areas affected by food deficits on 3 April, Abdoul Aziz Diallo, President of the Senegalese Red Cross (SRC), told IRIN: “We knew about the situation but the previous regime did not want to make a public declaration, since they thought it would prove their agricultural programmes were not efficient.”
Such projects included the Grand Agricultural Offensive for Food Security (GOANA), launched by ex-President Abdoulaye Wade to make Senegal self-sufficient in key crops.
In view of this approach, the SRC, UN agencies and some donors – who act only on official government request – felt they were unable to launch appeals or a major response.
Few people in the capital, Dakar, are even aware that there is a food crisis across much of the country. “You don’t hear about it on the news – I knew they were facing difficulties in my village [Niakhar in Fatick region of central Senegal] but not that it was across the country,” said Dakar resident Ephie Diam, 31.
About 810 000 Senegalese are facing hunger, according to a joint study in February 2012 by the Senegalese government and the World Food Programme (WFP). In the 2011 harvest season, cereal production fell by 36 percent compared to 2010, and the production of peanuts, Senegal’s main cash crop, fell by 59 percent.
The lean season, which in good years starts in July, began in March this year, four months earlier than usual, while market prices for local cereals are 20 percent higher than in 2011, reflecting a trend prevalent across the Sahel.
“We have to be very quick – households have very limited food stocks and prices are very high. People have already started to sell their cattle, to get indebted, and to skip meals. They can’t do that for long,” warned Ingeborg Maria Breuer, the WFP representative in Senegal.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
SENEGAL: Change of direction in hunger response