Senegal is experiencing the third severe drought period in six years, after 2011 and 2014, leaving nearly a quarter of a million people food insecure as the ‘hunger season’ begins.
"As early as October 2017, we began to warn of the impending food crisis caused by the rainfall deficit recorded that year. Now, in the middle of the hunger season, the reserves of the last harvest have already been exhausted, and food insecurity is affecting 245,000 people in the four districts of Podor, Ranerou, Kanel and Matam," says Fabrice Carbonne, Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Senegal.
With harvests already depleted, almost one in five children in Senegal are affected by acute malnutrition. About 120,000 children need nutritional treatment and support, and 23,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Podor and Matam, districts in northern Senegal, have experienced the country’s highest prevalence of acute malnutrition cases in recent years.
According to rainfall data for the district of Podor, seasonal rains in 2017 decreased by 66% compared to the previous year, and the subsequent production from pastures in Senegal River Valley is scarce – one of the most alarming deficits in West Africa this year.
"Due to the depletion of pastures, clashes over resources between nomadic pastoralists and farmers have intensified," says Carbonne. "The drought also adds to the risk of disease spreading among animals and lower production of milk and meat, with potentially dire consequences on nutrition, particularly amongst children."
Action Against Hunger's Response
"Many cattle are now dying and, with them, the main sustenance of many thousands of shepherds. Action Against Hunger is now funding the rehabilitation of ten drinking troughs that will benefit 800 families from four communities in Podor. The hope is that these activities will increase pastoral production and strengthen resilience among the poorest families and thus respond to their immediate food needs," says Carbonne.
Action Against Hunger has also launched a three-month food assistance campaign targeting 2,150 of the most vulnerable households to help prevent further rises in acute malnutrition rates, including monthly monetary transfers to cover basic food expenses.
"Mothers are being trained to evaluate the nutritional status of their children under five years of age using a MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) tape. Severe malnutrition cases will then be referred to health centers, depending on their severity," Carbonne adds.
Additionally, families with children between 6 - 59 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women are receiving enriched flour, made from local cereals with mineral and vitamin supplements.