agriculture in SenegalThe story of sustainable agriculture in Senegal is one of success that should be used as a guide for other countries. Between 1960 and the early 1980s, Senegal used monocropping, a dangerous practice where only one crop is grown year after year, leaching more and more nutrients from the ground. This eventually left the soil void of essential nutrients. When the area was hit by drought in the early 1980s, the land was unable to cope, and the country suffered from food shortages. However, over the last 20 years, Senegal has been using sustainable agriculture to bring back fertility to the soil.

In 1989, the United States government began working with Rodale International to come up with a plan to restore the soil. The plan was to use crop rotation. Every three years, one of four different plants would be sown in the soil. Each plant would only take certain nutrients from the ground and replace others. One of these plants was peanuts, the plant that caused the problem in the first place, and the second was millet. Both are now the main agricultural exports of Senegal. The other two crops in rotation are cowpeas and cassava.

The International Production and Pest Management Program

The United States and international companies are not the only organizations helping improve sustainable agriculture in Senegal. Senegal has been part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) IPPM program since 2001. The IPPM (Integrated Production and Pest Management Program) is dedicated to responsible pest control practices. The program touches on many points to control pests; however, its most important lesson is the responsible use of pesticides.

Pesticides remain a continuous problem in Senegal and most of the world due to their overuse. Pesticides stay in the water table, contaminating drinking water. They also hurt the soil since the chemicals build up over time and stay on the crops. When consumed pesticides are harmful to humans and animals. This is not to say that they are not sometimes necessary, but the IPPM suggests a less-is-more approach.

Syngenta

Private foundations are also doing their part. Syngenta, a Swiss-based based agricultural firm, has a foundation called the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The foundation works with public and private sector partners in order to finance innovations in sustainable agriculture. They also work with the World Bank, USAID and both the Swiss and Australian governments.

Since 2014, Syngenta has been promoting sustainable agriculture in Senegal’s rice production. In 2015, the organization began helping farmers gain access to better-mechanized equipment to facilitate rice cultivation in the Senegal River Valley. The overall approach of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is to work with the entire system. The work with NGO’s and governments to help small farmers become more productive has helped to increase the economic benefit of sustainable farming practices. It also helps the farmers better feed themselves and their families.

Improving the Economy Through Sustainable Agriculture

The soil is becoming productive again, and farmers are gaining access to better techniques and equipment. However, the fight is not over. Senegal suffers from an unemployment rate of 47 percent. In 2017, the agricultural industry employed 77 percent of the population in Senegal, an estimated 6.9 million people. However, the agriculture industry only makes up only about 17 percent of the of the country’s GDP. The next step to better economic stability will be to tackle these issues. Hopefully, like its soil, the Senegalese economy will now rejuvenate and grow for all.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control’s Tremendous Success in Eliminating River Blindness in SenegalOnchocerciasis, more commonly known as river blindness, is a skin and eye disease transmitted to people by infected blackflies. The infection is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) due to its prevalence and intensity. The World Health Organization reports that river blindness is the “world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness.” This process prevents adults and children from participating fully in everyday life, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Fortunately, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control has shown tremendous success in eliminating river blindness in Senegal.

Of all the people infected, 90 percent live in African Regions, particularly around fertile river valleys. In these areas around 50 percent of men over the age of 40 have been blinded because of the disease. There have been around 37 million people affected by onchocerciasis. Although the numbers remain high, they illustrate a tremendous improvement in reducing river blindness. Some countries have even been able to eliminate the disease.

Senegal

World Food Programme reports Senegal as having “persistently high poverty rates” typically around 75 percent of people living in chronic poverty. Additionally, 17 percent of people living in rural areas are food insecure. With high poverty rates often comes vulnerability to disease often due to a lack of resources and access to healthcare facilities.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that river blindness in Senegal showed a drastic disappearance after just 15-17 years of annual treatments. By 2016, 7.2 million people had received treatment for various NTDs. For river blindness alone, the overall treatment coverage had increased from 51 percent to 69 percent that year. This means around 629,000 people received treatment in 2016 while 915,000 were pending treatment in Senegal.

African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

Much of the success in eliminating river blindness in Senegal is accredited to the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control. In 1995, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) was launched to control onchocerciasis outbreaks throughout endemic countries in Africa. With funding from the World Bank’s Trust Fund mechanism, APOC was able to allocate money in accordance with each country’s unique needs. As of 2007, APOC had spent $112 million over 12 years of operations, which is relatively low.

In 2010, a total of 75.8 million people of APOC participating countries had received treatment. Projections show that by 2020, APOC will have eliminated river blindness in 12 countries. The program is unique in that it establishes a platform for community involvement. Rural communities feel a sense of empowerment at being able to take control of the situations and help the people in their community.

Community-Directed Treatment of Invermectin (CDTI)

The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control uses resources readily available in the participating communities, particularly citizen volunteers who conduct most of the local healthcare. Getting to rural areas is incredibly difficult due to terrain, so the implementation of mobile units was found to be ineffective. Often higher risk communities needed a response quicker than what the mobile units could execute, which is where having local volunteers is so vital.

Volunteers are locally elected and trained by professionals in APOC. Their main goals are to collect and administer the ivermectin tablets, the main medicine for treating river blindness. WHO advises a yearly dose for around 10-15 years.  Within their communities, they track and detect signs of infections. In cases were treatments require more care, volunteers are expected to help their patients get to the nearest health facility. In this process, the communities gain a sense of empowerment and engagement by being involved in solving their own health and development.

Successes

By 2006, 11 years after the program’s initial launch, APOC was able to treat 46.2 million people. By 2015, the number more than doubled to 114 million people. World Health Organization reports that in 2014, more than 112 million people were treated for onchocerciasis within 22 countries in Africa- representing 65 percent of global coverage.

World Health Organization has made plans to model the efforts of APOC. The involvement of the community in the process of medicinal distribution proved revolutionary in eliminating the presence of river blindness in Senegal. Additionally, to meet the Millennium Development Goal number one, poverty alleviation, WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases has created a guide for further eliminating river blindness throughout Africa. Most of these goals will be reviewed in 2020.

Progress is happening. APOC was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of almost eliminating the presence of river blindness in Senegal. Projects will continue to be successful if they use techniques like monthly treatments and the incorporation of the people in local communities to continue in the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

 Living Conditions in SenegalIn the transition from the French colony to the independent nation, Senegal has made substantial progress in relation to improving the living standard of its people. As one of the most politically stable nations in Africa, there has been greater space in the political arena to focus on development. Despite the political stability and continual growth of the economy, there are still key aspects and dimensions in the life of Senegalese people life that can be improved. In the article below, the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Senegal are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Senegal

  1. Senegal’s economy is based on mining, construction, fisheries, but predominantly, agriculture. Agriculture constitutes 12-15 percent of the GDP and employs upward of 70 percent of the total population. Many initiatives to address development in Senegal, such as youth employment, empowerment of women and stability of rural communities are centered around agriculture.
  2. Women in Senegal perform 70 percent of the agricultural work, doing predominately manual labor because mechanical agricultural equipment used contemporarily is unavailable to rural communities. Organizations such as the Italian Development Cooperation Agency have trained women in modern technologies and practices, hoping this knowledge will empower women in their communities to teach and be given greater entrepreneurial autonomy over the land and yield.
  3. Climate change is drastically altering the yield and land each season which impacts the food and employment security of the Senegalese peoples. The Senegal Food and Livelihoods Enhancement Initiative (SFLEI) by the World Vision Organization is implementing farmer-managed natural regeneration to address degraded soils, erosion and increase farmland fertility.
  4. Senegal has one of the highest electricity access rates, about 64 percent overall. The development of a centralized energy grid could provide more profuse access in the rural communities, but that is a cost-intensive endeavor for the nation. Solar and hydropower would be the most effective renewable sources for the country.
  5. NoPiwouma is the Senegalese offshoot of MeToo movement. It translates from Wolof to: “I will not shut up.” Due to the work of two women, Ndambaw Kama Thiat and Olivia Codouhe, Senegal, primarily Muslim country, is slowly beginning the conversation around sexual assault and harassment. The Google form these women created and Thiat’s blog are spaces that allow for women, traditionally suppressed by ideas of familial reputation, to tell of their experiences. Unlike the legal and economic aspects of the MeToo movement in the U.S., the mission of NoPiwouma is breaking the cultural boundaries of silence and submission.
  6. Hip-hop and rap is a medium that confronts Senegalese reality, recounts profound experiences of hardship and calls for actions of change. Senegal is 95 percent Muslim country and pervasive division of labor, societal roles and religious norms still exist. Rapping and involvement in this artistic movement allow for an honest, raw, politically charged reflection of these social values. Africulturban, a local youth organization, began a project for formerly incarcerated youth, access to the arts as an outlet for their stories and space for the narrative of stigmas in urban life to be discussed and molded.
  7. More than 60 percent of Senegal’s population is under the age of 25. A critique of many nations is the disengagement of the youth in politics, but the government of Senegal actively continues to try and engage this demographic through initiatives such as Plan of Action for Youth that aims to create coordinated policies through the National Youth Council of Senegal that integrate the youth in decision making and implementation of policies regarding education, employment, culture and health.
  8. Education is free and compulsory until the age of 16. In 2000, primary school enrollment was 69.8 percent, and in 2009, it was 92.5 percent. While the percentage of Senegalese youth attending school is particularly high, there are various aspects that direly need improvement such as the material goods needed for modern education. USAID is working to improve education in Senegal by providing internet access to more rural locations, textbooks for each grade level and renovating schools.
  9. Senegal practices some of the best methods of combating HIV and AIDS. One of the first initiatives that the country enacted was the elimination of an excise tax that made condoms unaffordable, in conjunction with an education initiative to emphasize the importance of safe sexual practices. The religious community took action too, as AIDS became a regular topic in Friday sermons in mosques and religious figures addressed the issue on television and radio. Less than 0.5 percent of the adult population suffers from AIDS, and less than 0.2 percent of youth aged from 15 to 24 are living with AIDS, indicating positive results from government and religious efforts.
  10. Senegal possesses one of the most developed water infrastructures on the African continent, but due to its location in sub-Saharan Africa, sustained and equal access to water is the challenge. There exists an inequality in access and a disparity in the quality of water transportation systems. In 2010, the government and the World Bank began the Water and Sanitation Millennium Program that benefited 654,520 people in five years. Based on this success, the project was renewed for the period 2015-2020.
The World Bank projects that poverty in Senegal should fall from present 34 percent to 31.2 percent in 2020 due to acceleration in agricultural growth and expansion of new industries like clean energy. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Senegal highlight the current situation in the country and are meant to give the face to the burgeoning development happening contemporarily in the country.

– Natalie Gates
Photo: Flickr

Women Rights in SenegalIn the past, women in Senegal did not have many rights, if any. But that situation is beginning to change as stipulations have been put out. However, these demands have been continuously violated by men who still believe that women should have certain traditional roles in society.

The most repugnant of these violations are forced marriage, genital mutilation, widespread violence against women, limited access to education, employment and decision-making positions, in the work or in the house. The government has been working toward making women’s rights in Senegal a priority.

Improvements in Women’s Rights in Senegal

Slowly, but surely, Senegalian women are getting more of a say in societal matters. Women have been appointed to decision-making positions, especially in the legal field, but they are still very under-represented in public and political affairs and need to become a larger voice in the public sphere.

In 1999, the Criminal Code was revised to make tougher penalties for crimes against women. This revision allows for the punishment of previously unrecognized crimes, such as incest, rape, sexual harassment, excision and domestic violence.

The National Strategy for Gender Equality was implemented between 2005 and 2015, concentrating on increasing women’s status in society, improving their capability, improving their economic position and setting up workshops to start the conversation in order to raise awareness about the issues that are prevalent to Senegalian society.

These three achievements have led Senegalian women one step closer to gender equality, but much more needs to be done in order to fix this sizable issue.

Current Status of Women’s Rights in Senegal

The Senegalian constitution says that all human beings are equal before the law and that men and women have equal rights. Women’s basic socio-economic rights are spelled out here, but they are not always followed through with. In most instances, men feel that they have power over their partners or co-workers based on the simple prejudice that they are not equal.

Some aspects of women’s rights have been improving, but there is still a huge discrepancy between what the law states and the reality for the Senegalian woman. Women are still viewed as second-class citizens.

In Senegal, the traditional view of society is still a reality, which is why it is difficult for women to get a say and be more prominent in the public sector of their communities. Men are raised up and women are pushed down, but changes to this are in process.

Barriers to Gender Equality

One of the largest impediments to gender equality in Senegal is forced marriage. This violation of human rights has been outlawed by the constitution, prohibited by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003, this issue is still very prevalent in Senegal society.

Another impediment to gender equality in Senegal is violence against women. This includes domestic violence, rape, the criminalization of abortion, discriminatory practices in access to economic resources and the silencing of women and girls in the in important decision-making processes.

What is Being Done and What Needs to Be Done

In order to break this tradition of inequality, women need to have more self-sufficiency, they need to have proper training and information sessions and they need to conduct economic activities to guarantee their sustainable economic progress and to ensure their access to justice without discrimination.

In terms of the criminalization of abortion, the Working Group strongly supports the current bill that aims to expand abortion in cases of incest and rape. The entirety of this West African country needs to work together in order to solve the huge issue of women not getting the rights that they deserve and that are promised by the law.

There continues to be growing support of women’s rights in Senegal, as well as a growing opposition to harmful traditional and cultural practices. However, there is a perception that the issue of gender inequality is the agenda of political leaders, which is completely false. This issue has been relevant to politicians only during election season.

In order for further improve women’s rights in Senegal, women need powerful allies and legislative measures to be put into action. Poverty legislation could be put to great use in order to give women a leg up in their communities. Every available resource needs to be tapped in order to achieve equality of men and women in Senegal.

– Megan Maxwell

Photo: Flickr

History of Ebola in SenegalThe outbreak of Ebola in Senegal became official at the end of August in 2014. A young man who had traveled from Guinea—a country already inflicted with ebola—to Dakar (the capital city of Senegal) was confirmed to have the virus. The WHO immediately jumped into action and sent three of the world’s best Ebola epidemiologists to contain the disease and prevent spreading.

Symptoms of Ebola

The first symptoms of Ebola are like the typical signs of flu such as a headache, fever and chills. It spreads through contact of bodily fluids resulting in internal bleeding and organ failure. A person with a late stage of the virus often shows symptoms such as coughing up blood.

The disease has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. Ebola can be contracted from the bodies of those who died from it, particularly when relatives bury them without protective gear.

About the History of Ebola in Senegal

Senegal was in a relatively advantageous position when Ebola struck their country because they had time to prepare as they watched it spread in neighboring countries. A National Crisis Committee was established quickly, to which funds were allocated in order to suppress the virus. To be safe, the government of Senegal expanded the eradication plan nationwide in response to the single case found in Dakar.

The fight against Ebola started with locating every person that came in contact with the first infected man in the country. After 74 people were identified, they were monitored intently to watch for signs of symptoms. The few that showed any symptoms similar to that of Ebola were tested, and all tests came back negative.

The infected man was treated in a hospital and recovered fully. He was allowed to re-enter the society once it was decided he was not carrying any contagion.

Around the time that Ebola broke out in Senegal, the country closed its borders to travelers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This safety measure was taken in response to the massive epidemic of Ebola in those countries. The president of Senegal stated publicly that it should not just be an African emergency, but a global priority.

Senegal was lucky in comparison to its neighbors. The case of Ebola in Senegal is a perfect example of the positive effects proactive measures can have. Because Senegal took precautions before Ebola was found in their country, they were prepared for the disease when it was discovered.

Ebola-Free Senegal

A major factor in the success of Senegal’s fight against Ebola is the awareness they had about Ebola’s advances in their surrounding countries. Some of the measures Senegal took could be seen as excessive, but their “better safe than sorry” attitude contributed significantly to their Ebola-free status.

After the standard 42-day waiting period for Ebola cases, Senegal was declared Ebola-free by WHO on October 17, 2014. The country has not had another case since.

When the government of a country prioritizes the safety and health of its people, innumerable lives are saved. The diligence of Senegal ensured there was no more than one case found and no deaths from Ebola.

Even a disease as fatal and severe as Ebola can be prevented when fought effectively. Other nations can use Senegal’s response to Ebola as a role model for how to fight the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Senegal
Since 2001, the United States has consistently provided foreign aid to Senegal. Washington’s contributions have continuously been above $30 million per year and peaked at $141 million in 2014. As a result, this financial support has had significant impacts on the developing nation.

Combined global aid has improved Senegal’s agricultural efficiency by shifting losses into profits of over $300 million per year, enhanced water access to over 140,000 people and increased access to secondary education by over 75 percent. GDP has increased from four to nearly 15 billion.

How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Senegal

Such improvements may seem praise-worthy from a charitable standpoint. Foreign aid, however, is not just a one-way street. In fact, the U.S benefits from foreign aid to Senegal. In one way, foreign aid can be seen as a macro-level investment by a government into an underdeveloped market. Foreign aid is unique in that the risk-level is nearly negligible given that the intent is not to see a personal return on the investment, but rather to accelerate growth to meet basic humanitarian needs.

Despite the moral and seemingly charitable nature of foreign aid, it can pay dividends to the provider in the future. As the receiving state experiences economic growth and stabilizes over time, it becomes more able to establish economic moats and reciprocate the help it received. This is typically though not exclusively seen through an increased ability to trade.

Education

According to the Department of Commerce, current U.S.-Senegal trade relations are limited. While U.S. exports have gone up roughly 90 percent from 2006, U.S. exports to Senegal support only about 900 jobs as of 2015. That number, however, could rise significantly through increased foreign aid in education.

As more individuals become educated and start businesses that leverage increasingly efficient agricultural resources or other products, more jobs and growth could materialize as ‘what goes around comes around’ in giving back to aid nations. Increased trade with Senegal in the future could help the U.S. receive money given as aid back into its economy.

Economic and Political Stability

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Senegal by also bolstering economic stability so that it may develop into an emerging market. After the U.S. started providing foreign aid, the IMF in 2015 reported that Senegal’s financial soundness metrics suggested that it was stronger than West Africa as a whole.

The democratic state has also improved politically in the years since foreign aid started. Given the key transfers of peaceful power and the absence of violent conflict, the World Bank has regarded Senegal as one of the most stable states on the continent. Positive ratings have been helpful in slowly pushing Senegal onto the world stage as a prospective future power and perhaps, one day, a true regional hegemon in West Africa.

Investing in Senegal

Today, the nation’s political and economic harmony has drawn talks and the interest of private investors. Senegal’s “Plan Sénégal Emergent” is a new policy framework that seeks to combine social justice with good governance and economic growth to stimulate development. The purpose, as the name suggests, is to establish Senegal as an ‘emerging market’ by 2035.

An emerging market is a state that features characteristics of a developed market, but has not gotten there just yet. Such markets have potential for high growth and profitability – drawing the attention of the world’s financial companies.

While the road ahead seems long and arduous, President Macky Sall remains optimistic that his country can work towards achieving the goal. Foreign aid and a demonstrated domestic interest in maintaining stability show that Senegal wants to be a model for pioneering change in West Africa.

Lucrative Give and Take

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Senegal if this happens. Emerging markets are known for high growth opportunities that can be lucrative. Current examples of such markets include states such as China, India and Brazil, which have made big waves in the financial world. Senegal, as a result of development from foreign aid, hopes to be next. Investors could be able to capitalize on growth opportunities in a developing nation, which would materialize benefits to U.S. citizens.

With several nations still struggling with similar issues, there is still work to be done. The Senegal case-study shows that there is a need for foreign aid, and the argument for it is no longer exclusive to just global altruism.

– Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr

Senegal
When reporting on countries like Senegal, major media outlets often reinforce negative stereotypes of the entire continent. This creates a problem in how the media misrepresents Senegal. Our rare interactions with stories from Africa tend to paint the entire continent with a single, wide brush as a cohesive unit rather than distinct countries.

Changing Views

Marisa Peters, a college student who recently traveled to Senegal, told The Borgen Project in an interview that how the media misrepresents Senegal can cause others to dismiss the country and look down on it as well. For many of us, our only exposure to Senegal is through this incomplete media coverage and do-good campaigns. This lack of balance and context leads to a one-sided perspective. Victims of poverty, hunger and disease stare back at us from haunting images and videos on our screens; big eyes and tiny limbs seem to plead for pity, desperate for help. We hear time and again about the violence, corruption and backwards-thinking that plagues the continent.

Perception vs Reality

All of these aspects certainly exist in African countries, many even in Senegal, but this is only one side of the story. There are so many positive aspects of Senegal that people rarely ever see. By failing to report the many distinct and positive aspects of Senegal, the media perpetuates the myth that it is just another “helpless African country”.

Many perceive Senegal as a nation of famine and starvation when, in reality, most Senegalese have plenty to eat. This speaks to how the media misrepresents Senegal as a poor and powerless country.

Poverty, while still a problem, is not an inevitable one in Senegal. They have actually made significant strides in the last decade toward reducing poverty rates. The government has been heavily investing in infrastructure, energy and agriculture which has led to strong economic growth – consistently between six and seven percent in the last several years. This solid fiscal foundation has helped turn Senegal into one of the economic hubs of Western Africa.

A ‘New’ Glimpse at Senegal

This growth has caused the poverty rate to fall by four to seven percent since 2011. In addition, Senegal has one of the largest safety net programs in Africa. However, this progress is rarely a part of the way Senegal is portrayed. Another example of Senegal’s underrepresented progress are the improvements in child health – a result of reducing malaria and malnutrition.

Because of various campaigns by organizations and outside governments, Senegal is misrepresented as a nation that struggles with AIDS. However, the Senegalese were actually able to quickly respond to the disease, and currently have a prevalence rate below 1 percent – a model of success for the continent.

Properly understanding the progress that Senegal has made — largely through government initiatives and investments — can also help dispel notions of corruption and instability that often accompany coverage of Senegal. In fact, Senegal has one of the most stable and democratic political institutions in Africa. Its history of civilian leaders and having only three major political transitions – all of which were peaceful – contradicts how the media misrepresents Senegal.

Debunking Stereotypes

Another media focus point is Senegal’s perceived issue of violence. Petty crime can be a problem in Senegal, but the machine-gun-carrying warlords that enamor Hollywood are nowhere to be seen. Focusing on primitive aspects of Senegal also shows how the media misrepresents Senegal; Westerners often perceive of the Senegalese as backwards. They are stereotyped as practitioners of voodoo and witchcraft, despite Islam being the main religion.

Like many African nations, Senegal is also seen as being technologically limited; in reality, the technology gap in Senegal is being reduced by their innovative youth.

Another one of the numerous ways the media misrepresents Senegal is by omitting many unique aspects of Senegalese life and culture. The capital, Dakar, is a fascinating city that beautifully blends new trends and old traditions. Senegal is home to a vibrant music scene, rich history, delicious cuisine, bustling markets and striking landscapes.

Senegalese Warmth and Hospitality

The Senegalese themselves, contrary to what can be found in most news outlets, are known for their friendliness and hospitality. The warmth of their culture reflects that of the temperate weather — this hospitality is known locally as “Teranga.” Peters said that it encompasses the incredibly kind and welcoming nature of the many Senegalese she met. She particularly remembers their willingness to invest time and energy into one another; in Senegal, “time is people.”

Of course, it is necessary for the media and academics to continue to report on the poverty and problems that African countries such as Senegal face. This is the only way outsiders can make informed decisions and stay up to date. However, this coverage needs to be balanced, and context must be provided or else myths and stereotypes will continue to be perpetuated.

Western media has already made significant improvements in covering more positive aspects of Senegal as well as considering the progress they have made, but as always, more can be done.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

 SenegalGirls’ education in Senegal has greatly improved in the last 20 years, partially thanks to Senegal’s government. According to the World Bank, Senegal’s government allocates almost a quarter of its budget toward education, the highest percentage of any country in northwest Africa. The money pays for the construction of school buildings, teachers’ salaries and equal education initiatives. Despite the government’s commitment to education, cultural norms and widespread poverty still prevent many Senegalese girls from completing their education and less than 50 percent of Senegalese women are literate.

Improvements Made

Achieving gender parity in primary schools is one improvement the government has made in girls’ education in Senegal. Thanks to substantial budget allocations and initiatives for equal education, Senegal’s government has maintained gender parity in primary schools since 2010. For example, girls only made up 35 percent of Ndiarème B. Primary School’s student body when it first opened in 1996. In 2010, the percentage of girls had risen to 49 percent.

The World Bank reports that Gross Enrollment Ratios (GERs) have also risen across the small country. In 2016, 87.9 percent of girls were enrolled in primary schools according to the World Bank. However, only 63.5 percent of girls actually complete their primary education and only 57.9 percent enroll in lower secondary education (equivalent to middle school). The GER for girls enrolled in secondary education falls even lower at 48.4 percent.

The Fight Continues

First, educators fought to get girls enrolled in schools. Now, educators fight to keep them there. BuildOn is a non-governmental organization that works in the U.S. and around the world. Its global program helps build schools in poor villages. Employees and volunteers continue working with the communities to ensure each school’s success.

Aminata Ndiaye, a buildOn Education Coordinator in Senegal, has worked directly with children in Senegal’s rural communities since 2015 to bring students back to school. Ndiaye’s program has brought more than 2,000 students back to school in just a couple of years.

As a woman, Ndiaye is particularly sensitive to girls’ struggles to get an education, noting that Senegalese parents often prioritize boys’ education over girls’ education.

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Senegal

Tostan is a community-led NGO that works to educate and empower African women. Harouna Sy, a Tostan regional coordinator, says that poverty rather than culture is actually at the heart of girls’ education issues in Senegal.

Poverty is a widespread issue in Senegal and girls are often singled out to help support their families instead of attending school. Aisatou Ba’s parents took her out of school at age 11 so that she could help her mother at home and work as a maid to support her family. She watched her brothers continue going to school and eventually earn higher paying jobs. Ba’s little education disqualifies her from many higher paying opportunities. She still works as a maid and earns the equivalent of $70 per week.

Cultural Norms

Even though Sy claims poverty is at the root of girls’ unequal education, cultural norms do still affect girls’ education in Senegal. Many Senegalese parents take their girls out of school early to force them into marriages. Senegal’s government prohibits marriage for girls under 18 but it does not have the resources to enforce the policy, especially in rural villages.

Girls forced into marriage at a young age are also forced to take on new responsibilities in their new homes, such as cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. Even if the girls’ husbands allow them to stay in school, they have less time to devote to their studies. Many of these girls are also expected to get pregnant and those who do often leave school entirely.

There is still more work to do to keep Senegalese girls in school, but girls’ education in Senegal has made great strides thanks to government funding and help from NGOs.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to SenegalSenegal is a country on the western coast of Africa. Though it has enjoyed political stability for several decades, it is dependent on foreign aid. In fact, 46.7 percent of Senegal’s population lives below the poverty line. Additionally, 17.1 percent of children in Senegal suffer from malnutrition.

A prevalent issue in Senegal is the exploitation of children. Approximately 15 percent of children between the ages of four and 15 are forced to do labor, mostly farm work. An estimated 100,000 children roam the streets begging for money.

Furthermore, there are numerous health concerns in Senegal. For instance, anemia affects 60 percent of all women. Because most of the country does not have easy access to healthcare, this also increases the spread of dangerous diseases such as cholera or malaria.

However, several organizations and countries have become involved in helping Senegal. When observing the success of humanitarian aid to Senegal, there are many encouraging factors.

European humanitarian aid was able to treat 20,400 malnourished children in 2017. The World Food Program (WFP) has also been involved with providing nutritional aid to Senegal. Throughout 2017 they provided assistance to 37,000 people threatened by malnutrition. WFP is also on course to provide school meals to 160,000 children at 818 primary schools during the 2017-2018 school year.

In order to combat malnutrition in the long run, it is important to improve Senegal’s agricultural situation. This is exactly what the Millennium Challenge Corporation did. Rice is an essential element of Senegal’s nutrition and trade. However, due to outdated water delivery systems, rice farming has become difficult. MCC has invested $170 million in Senegal River’s irrigation systems. This is part of a five-year plan to invest $540 million.

This upgraded irrigation system has enabled farmers to grow more rice, onions and tomatoes, increasing their profits and enabling the country to be able to feed itself. One local farmer, Ibrahim Ba, was able to harvest an additional 2640 pounds of rice as part of the first yield utilizing irrigation. As farming conditions continue to improve, excess proceeds can go towards healthcare, better schooling, better farming equipment and other areas that will greatly improve the quality of life for Senegalese farmers.

Another indicator of the success of humanitarian aid to Senegal is the improved healthcare situation. USAID has been key in assisting the Senegalese government in addressing their healthcare issues. One crucial program has been the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). It has been instrumental in lowering the under-five mortality rate by 55 percent over the last eight years and decreasing the infant mortality rate by 17 percent over the last four years. Additionally, PMI trained 1,474 health workers to be able to diagnose and treat malaria.

Besides assisting in the fight against malaria, USAID has trained health workers to aid during childbirth. These workers helped deliver 18,336 babies and have made visits to 54,530 recent mothers in 2015.

Crucially, USAID has also improved the education system in Senegal. Not only have they been able to build 46 middle schools throughout the country since 2007, but they have also improved the enrollment rates for those schools. Specifically, regions with USAID educational assistance enroll more girls in middle school.

Humanitarian aid to Senegal has seen successes in many major areas throughout the past several years. As these programs continue, all indications show that the country will continue to make strides to address poverty and the problems that still exist.

– Zachary Pappas

Photo: Flickr


In the African country of Senegal — population 15.41 million — cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women, and the nation ranks at number 15 in global cervical cancer prevalence.  Considering the cancer is completely treatable through early detection, the number of deaths from cervical cancer in Senegal is startling.

Cervical cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed and the second most common cause of cancer deaths among women. However, in the U.S. and other developed countries, cervical cancer does not even rank among the top three cancer killers. Why the discrepancy between nations like the U.S. and developing nations like Senegal?

The answer is simple: access to screenings and vaccines.

Screening for a Treatable Cancer

While cervical cancer was the leading cancer killer of women in the U.S. until the 1950s, development of the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear allowed for detection of cell abnormalities.  In the following decades, scientists and doctors learned that cervical cancer is the most preventable and treatable type of cancer because it develops very slowly.

“There are 5 to fifteen years from the first cellular changes to the actual cancer development,” says Dr. Andrew Dykens, professor of family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  “So you’ve got time during that phase to do something about it.”

Dykens is director of the Global Community Health Track at the Center for Global Health at UIC.  He is also a former Peace Corps volunteer and current member of Rotary International (Rotary Club of Chicago).  He also started the nonprofit Peace Care, which provides resources by bringing together the local expertise of Peace Corps workers and the communities who need them.

Dykens worked with each of these organizations and Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Social Action to bring low-cost screening to the women of the nation.  A method even simpler than a Pap smear, a vinegar solution is used to detect abnormal cells.  The cells can be killed off immediately with a cryotherapy gun and a CO2 tank — another simple method that involves no electricity.

The Cancer Vaccine

In 2013, the global vaccine alliance Gavi selected ten African countries for a pilot human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program, with Senegal being among them.

Certain strains of HPV are the cause of cervical cancer.  While the HPV vaccine has been used in the U.S. and other developed countries since 2006, it was finally introduced to Africa in 2016.  Along with Rwanda and Uganda, Senegal is one among the first three countries to adopt the vaccine as part of its national vaccination program.

Professor Ousseynou Badiane, head of Immunization Division for the Ministry of Health in Senegal, states that through subsidization by Gavi and the Senegalese state, the vaccine will be accessed by all at no cost.  The vaccine is being implemented in two phases – first, a mass vaccination for girls between age 9 and fifteen by May 2018; after that, it will become part of routine immunizations for all girls at age 9.

In the U.S., women are commonly screened for cervical cancer every three years.  For cervical cancer in Senegal, many women are being screened for the first time.  Dykens and other health practitioners understand the challenges they face in terms of a traditionally conservative environment concerning women’s health issues. But with Peace Care, local Rotary clubs, Gavi, and others working together with the nation’s government, promotion of awareness and education will reduce the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer in Senegal.

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr