HIV/AIDS in SenegalHIV/AIDS is an epidemic that is most prevalent in Africa. Many countries across the continent are acutely affected or struggle to control the disease. One country that has handled the crisis expertly is Senegal. A low-income country in West Africa, Senegal would look to be a prime candidate for a difficult path regarding HIV/AIDS. However, HIV/AIDS in Senegal is relatively low in cases and in damage.

HIV/AIDS in Senegal

Senegal has become a model for controlling HIV/AIDS across the developing world. The country of 16 million people manages to keep the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS low while providing many methods to increase knowledge of the disease. There are only 41,000 people in Senegal living with HIV/AIDS as of 2019.

The prevalence rate of people living with HIV/AIDS stands at 0.4 among adults between 15 and 49, with men having a 0.3 prevalence rate and women having a 0.4 prevalence rate. There were only around 1,400 new cases of HIV/AIDS in Senegal in 2019 and 1,200 deaths. There has been a 37% decrease in HIV/AIDS cases since 2010 and a 26% decrease in deaths. Roughly 70% of people with HIV/AIDS receive antiretroviral treatment. Senegal was the first sub-Saharan country to establish an antiretroviral treatment program in 1998 and is one of the few countries in Africa that provides such treatment for free.

Smart Senegalese Strategies

Senegal’s success is due to several methods of raising awareness about HIV and increasing treatment and prevention plans. Senegal took HIV/AIDS very seriously even in the earliest days of the spread. In 1986, Senegal was one of the first African nations to develop a National Council Against AIDS, which has remained effective and stable. The country was also one of the first to focus on securing antiretroviral drugs and negotiated deals with pharmaceutical companies in order to provide them for free or at a low cost.

The Senegalese government has continued to make HIV/AIDS a priority. In 1992, Senegalese president, Abdou Diouf, showed leadership by asking other leaders to make a commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS at a summit for the Organization of African Unity. This attitude has led to sustained success. Since 1997, Senegal’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has remained below 1%, a remarkable achievement as prevalence rates across Africa have frequently soared above 10%.

Senegal’s basic strategy has remained consistent. The country emphasizes awareness, provides medical resources and works with the powerful local regional communities to stop the spread. Public health initiatives including blood screenings, education programs in schools and condom distribution are common. NGOs also provide a lot of help in health initiatives and raising awareness.

Crucial in the success of preventing HIV/AIDS in Senegal is the support of religious leaders and the role of religion. Senegal is a 95% Muslim-based country, and generally, strict adherence to the religion leads to fewer incidents of casual sex and infidelity. In a largely religious country, the words of religious leaders are very important, especially as conspiracy theories around HIV/AIDS are common. Many religious figures talk openly about HIV/AIDS and promote solutions, which lends credibility to the danger of the disease and the government’s efforts to combat the disease.

A Role Model

HIV/AIDS in Senegal is well under control, which should be a great source of pride for the country. Senegal has taken HIV/AIDS seriously since the beginning and has a consistent and effective strategy that keeps the disease largely at bay.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 response
While the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to come under control, many countries around the world have taken steps to economic recovery. African nations in particular, although prone to severe economic impacts, have shown significant progress in their COVID-19 response. According to the World Bank’s October 2020 Africa’s Pulse issue, GDP growth projections in all regions of Africa are positive for 2021 and 2022 following GDP growth decrease in 2020. This article highlights three countries that are demonstrating optimistic economic growth after COVID-19.

Rwanda

COVID-19 Response Measures: Rwanda has received recognition for its efforts to contain initial outbreaks. This is likely due to the country’s aggressive measures combining public health mandates and innovative utilization of technologies. What separates Rwanda’s response is its reliance on scientific guidance and a high-tech approach to health and social service policies. For example, treatment centers are using human-sized robots for temperature checks and supply deliveries. National enforcement also deployed drones to monitor and ensure compliance with lockdown measures.

Fiscal Policy: The December 2020 update on fiscal policy in Rwanda includes $314 million in economic stimulus, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens (unemployment benefits) and food assistance. Rwanda’s financial capacity proved beyond national resources but international support was able to expand it. UNDP Rwanda and the World Bank are currently working closely with the Rwanda Ministry of Finance to discern how much the COVID-19 response plan will need for operation.

Monetary Policy: The National Bank of Rwanda reduced the policy interest rate to 4.5%. It has further plans to establish liquidity and digital payment support measures. In Africa’s Pulse, the World Bank classifies Rwanda as the only country established in the Growth Taxonomy in sub-Saharan Africa. The taxonomy compares pre-pandemic performance to mid-pandemic growth. Expectations have determined that Rwanda will achieve the highest post-pandemic recovery with a GDP growth of 7%. With economic drivers like vaccine campaigns and investment and trade boosts, countries like Rwanda and Tanzania expect GDP increases. East Africa in general is expected to reach 5.1% GDP growth as opposed to the continental average at 3.2%.

Kenya

COVID-19 Response Measures: Kenya adopted many of the common direct response measures, such as a widespread lockdown. Additionally, the U.N. praised Kenya’s maintenance of well-equipped emergency treatment hospitals to best accommodate not only Kenyan patients but also U.N. personnel and partners. Kenya’s hospitals can also potentially play an important role in regional humanitarian development.

Fiscal Policy: Kenya announced a $534 million economic stimulus, a $377 million COVID-19 health expenditure, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens and food assistance. Like other African countries, Kenya is receiving financial assistance from major international entities such as the World Bank and the E.U. With 86 different donors, Kenya received Ksh 194,663,072,350 ($177,3769,915.25) for COVID-19 response plans.

Monetary Policy: The Central Bank of Kenya reduced the policy interest rate to 7% and planned liquidity support measures. Additionally, the government launched the National Hygiene Program (Kazi Mtaani) to reduce pandemic-induced unemployment. It offers employment with daily wages to the hardest-hit communities. Jobs include street cleaning, garbage collection and disinfection. Kenya’s trade activities also indicate promising economic recovery. According to the World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, Kenyan exports have already recovered rapidly and have surpassed pre-pandemic highs.

Senegal

COVID-19 Response Measures: The World Bank highlighted Senegal as demonstrating a successful health response to COVID-19. Swift responses were key, particularly in regards to test capacity, quarantine facilities and ventilators. Preventative measures also included temperature checks and hand sanitizer distribution. By September 2020, 80% of confirmed cases had recovered.

Fiscal Policy: Senegal has an $801 million economic stimulus, a $130 million COVID-19 health expenditure, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens and food assistance. Some participating entities for Senegal’s financing include the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. For instance, AfDB contributed €88 million to support Senegal’s measures to provide relief to vulnerable households, businesses and job security initiatives.

Monetary Policy: Senegal’s monetary policy is in collaboration with other West African countries, including Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Togo. These countries work with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which has made FCFA 4.750 billion ($8,383,750) available to banks and has reduced policy interest rates to 4%. In Africa’s Pulse Growth Taxonomy, Senegal is one of five countries in the top tercile of growth performers. It has a classification of “improved.” Improved GDP growth can indicate the first signs of economic recovery.

The Road to Recovery

As a result of early preventative policy measures, fiscal and monetary policies, international financing and trade initiatives, many African countries have paved a road to post-pandemic recovery. Rwanda, Kenya and Senegal are merely three of the African countries benefiting from smart policy measures and quick COVID-19 responses. In many cases, these countries are experiencing even higher levels of growth than they did before the pandemic. The steps that these countries and others took can serve as a model for how to navigate the economic hurdles of a global pandemic.

– Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

Power to Africa
In the digital age, access to the Internet has become a barrier to entry for much of society. Nowhere is this lack of access more prevalent than in Africa. Roughly two out of three Africans lack access to electricity, let alone the Internet. To address this staggering disparity in privilege in an age that the widespread use of electricity characterizes, several NGOs are working to bring power to Africa through a combination of innovative technology and locally-led distribution campaigns.

The Honnold Foundation

Founded by renowned rock climber Alex Honnold, The Honnold Foundation aims to promote equitable access to power worldwide. While the organization does work both domestically and abroad, many of its projects in Africa have focused on the distribution of solar lanterns and pay-as-you-go energy programs. These programs provide power to remote, off-grid communities. Through generous grants The Honnold Foundation has awarded to organizations such as The Solar Energy Foundation and SolarAid, the Honnold Foundation has provided clean, renewable energy sources to 12.3 million people. This has not only lit up a large swath of Africa but also eliminated the need for expensive and environmentally-harmful alternatives such as kerosene lamps. Additionally, the Foundation has provided solar power to 165 Ethiopian schools and 35 health centers, as well as more than 2,000 households.

Sustainable Energy for All

Sustainable Energy for All, or SEforAll, is an independent international organization. In partnership with the United Nations, it works to promote access to sustainable energy across the world. In Africa, SeforAll’s “Electricity for All in Africa” program is using a top-down strategy to alleviate regional energy poverty. SEforAll’s focus is threefold: first, it advocates for policy reform centered on the promotion of sustainable energy access for all, in conjunction with meeting sustainable development goals. The organization also utilizes a neutral platform to promote investment in sustainable energy in Africa. In addition, it accelerates the market for private sustainable energy companies and facilitates communication between companies and the public sector. In Africa, 44 countries have joined SEforAll’s initiative, with drastic long-term improvement expected in nearly all of them as more companies buy into the clean energy industry and countries adopt policy reforms.

Africa ICT Right

Many organizations are pushing valuable initiatives to bring electricity to remote and impoverished African communities. However, NGOs tackling the disparity in Internet access are less common. Africa ICT Right (AIR), is a nonprofit addressing the lack of Information and Communication Technology – or ICT – in Ghana. Some of AIR’s programs include projects to equip schools with computer labs and STEM teachers, programs to offer technological tools and learning opportunities to high school girls and innovative technological reforms in rural medical centers to reduce infant and maternal mortality. Above all, AIR based its mission on the following idea: not only does it benefit less affluent communities to have access to these technological tools, but it also allows the inclusion of diverse voices from areas such as Ghana.

Power for All

Power for All is an NGO that has dedicated itself to bringing power to Africans in rural areas through decentralized renewable energy sources. Rather than prioritizing one form of renewable energy, Power for All strives to promote a combination of different strategies to tackle increasing overall energy efficiency and availability. In addition to this goal, Power for All lobbies governments to reduce taxes on renewable energy sources. Furthermore, it incentivizes investors and banks to earmark funds specifically for the promotion of sustainable power sources.

ACRA

The Milan-based NGO ACRA is also spreading the benefits of electricity throughout several African countries through a variety of sustainable solutions, including the construction of small hydroelectric plants in rural areas. Organizations in Tanzania applied this strategy to a high degree of success. Plants turned over to local leadership and paired with education initiatives in the locales they power. What is particularly remarkable about ACRA’s programs is that it tailors them to the region in which they implement them. For example, ACRA’s hydropower programs in Tanzania work well in that region. However, in Senegal, ACRA has seen an even greater potential for the installation of solar panels to power remote communities.

The Push to Bring Power to Africa

The actions and goals of these NGOs point to a greater global appreciation for the value of integrating Africa. The work of these organizations will likely prove invaluable in bringing power to Africa. By incorporating Africans into the global economy, they better global communication networks with new and diverse perspectives.

Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr

Six Strategies that Combat COVID-19 in SenegalDue to the new escalating cases and the development of new strains of COVID-19 worldwide, reasons exist to worry about the impact of COVID-19 on developing African nations. Many are concerned that these countries do not have the same financial and health resources to fight the virus and protect their citizens as western industrialized nations do. However, Senegal, a small West African nation of 16.3 million inhabitants, might be an exception. Foreign Policy magazine released an analysis suggesting that Senegal ranks second of 36 countries in how well it has managed and resisted the pandemic. How does Senegal use its six essential strategies to effectively combat COVID-19? An examination of some of Senegal’s strategies and best practices can shed light on how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic from its onset to February 2021.

COVID-19 Testing

The first strategy in the fight against COVID-19 in Senegal is its high-priority testing for its citizens. Testing is easy to obtain and readily accessible. Thanks to the efficacy of the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, people can obtain their test results in as little as eight hours. The program operates 24-hours a day and the entire country has access to testing. For those with symptoms, the test is free. Clearly, this has helped stop several chains of transmission. Additionally, the Institut Pasteur is currently developing a home test-kit in collaboration with U.K. company, Mologic. Med-tech news confirmed on its website that the partnership already began trials in January 2021 in Dakar, and they intend to start trials in the U.S. and Indonesia as well.

The Development of New Tools

The second strategy is to develop tools for the future. Possessing locally manufactured and innovative testing has been a trademark of Senegal. A ­­­­­­home test to check for antibodies in previously infected individuals is close to delivery. Both the Institut Pasteur and Mologic are partnering to make sure the cost is minimal. Dr. Joel Fitchett, medical director for Mologic, stated, “What we’re trying to achieve here is to deliver high-performance, low-cost devices that do not profit [the UK] because if we profit here, we only prolong this pandemic.”

Laboratory Construction

Senegal is building state-of-the-art laboratories. The construction of a laboratory site, DiaTropix, at the Institut Pasteur began in 2019 for the diagnostics of Ebola and yellow fever. Since early 2020, it became equipped with COVID-19 testing, making the implementation and validation of COVID-19 testing swift in Senegal. Furthermore, by making “smaller manufacturing lines closer to demand,” Senegal’s health system has now established a sustainable system with the ability to address a number of epidemics more quickly.

Testing Accessibility for Travelers

The fourth strategy in the eradication of COVID-19 in Senegal is COVID-19 test affordability and rapidity for travelers coming in or out of Senegal. The Institut Pasteur makes it easy and affordable for travelers to obtain tests by offering testing seven days of the week including holidays. It can occur at the cost of $73 (West African CFA francs 40,000). As close as 48 hours before traveling, one can easily obtain a test and receive results within eight hours.

Professional Expertise

Senegal remains at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight in Africa and worldwide. Senegal’s Institut Pasteur was one of only two labs in Africa that had the equipment to test COVID-19 and has continued to lead the way for COVID-19 testing and prevention ever since. The Institut Pasteur’s director, Dr. Amadou Sall, and his team have trained staff from a dozen other African countries on how to test COVID-19. Dr. Amadou Sall’s years of experience, high level of competency and expertise account for a lot of Senegal’s success in preventing the spread of COVID-19. His research covers diagnostics, ecology and evolution of arboviruses and viral hemorrhagic fevers. With more than 100 papers and book chapters, and more than 150 scientific communications, Dr. Amadou Sall is a world leader and accredited expert in this fast-evolving pandemic.

Presidential Actions

The sixth strategy is the efficient and pro-active governmental action against COVID-19 in Senegal. President Macky Sall took action early against the first coronavirus wave with a curfew in March 2020. Due to the risk of becoming unpopular, the president imposed a new curfew in January 2021.

Moreover, President Sall recently thanked Senegalese artists for helping to communicate the importance of prevention measures. He stated, “I am grateful to artists…. and other stars who turned to song, or painted murals, making it crystal-clear what was required of our people to stay safe. Washing hands, wearing masks, keeping your distance are simple instructions, so why complicate them? Why mess around, confusing the message, delaying the action and losing momentum?”

These are some of the most noteworthy strategies and best practices that combat COVID-19 in Senegal. Nevertheless, Senegalese people also deserve substantial credit for following safety measures at the expense of their jobs and communal lifestyle.

Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Senegal
Poverty often drives human trafficking. Senegal faces this problem because 46.7% of its citizens have been living below the poverty line as of 2011. Senegal has become a major country in which women and children are victims of trafficking, undergoing forced labor or experiencing sexual exploitation. Here is some information about human trafficking in Senegal.

The Victims

Many young children in the country, known as “talibe” are the victims of human trafficking. Several religious schools are forcing these children to beg on the streets for them. However, these schools are supposed to be caring for these children and teaching them Islamic studies. Human Rights Watch has recorded that over 100,000 talibes had to beg on the streets of Senegal as of 2017 and 2018. Importantly, several individuals have posed as Quranic teachers as well, thus giving many religious schools a bad reputation.

Traditionally, Quranic schools had the design of helping children memorize the Quran. Many know these schools as Daaras and they provide an alternative to formal schooling.

Meanwhile, in the case of women and girls, they may experience trafficking for the purpose of doing domestic housework, performing errands and enduring sexual exploitation. They also sometimes end up in sex tourism. In fact, traffickers frequently send Senegalese women to areas such as the Middle East and Europe.

Solutions

The Senegalese government has made an effort to prevent human trafficking and help victims who have experienced trafficking. Places such as the Ginndi Center provide shelter for impoverished children, including trafficking victims. They receive funding from the Ministry of Good Governance and Child Protection (MGGCP), which receives help from international donors. MGGCP works to reunite these children with their families, being successful in at least 917 cases so far. The government also organized a special police force to combat child sex tourism and a tourism police unit that helps decrease the demand for commercial sex acts in Senegal.

Since 2005, Senegal has a Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices and to Protect Victims. In addition, a new Air and Border Police unit in charge of transnational criminal investigations emerged. The penalities are different regarding crimes of sex trafficking, forced labor and forced begging.

As Senegal’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report explained, Senegalese laws impose five to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine for sex and labor trafficking. Meanwhile, in the case of forced begging, Senegal imposes imprisonment of two to five years and a fine. Unfortunately, the government simply handles some traffickers administratively.

Pathway to Continued Progress

Despite the lack of accountability of some officials and traffickers, continuous progress is occurring to increase the number of partnerships between international organizations, NGOs and government ministries/agencies. Workshops and training have been underway for judicial officials, law enforcement, gendarmerie, reporters and social workers. This is providing them with the tools they need for victim identification, investigation practices and assistance procedures in the hopes of eradicating human trafficking in Senegal.

Lastly, three noteworthy achievements have occurred in the fight against human trafficking in Senegal. First, a campaign awareness, that MGGCP organized, exhibited photos of vulnerable children beggars in June 2018. Second, MGGCP initiated a workshop for reporters dealing with child protection, labor and trafficking in November 2018. Lastly, the continued Daara Mapping Project emerged, which is a coordinated effort that compiles and inspects all the Daaras to prevent any type of abuse.

Looking Ahead

Senegal has taken steps to combat human trafficking and corruption. It has also created more economic partnerships by doing business with countries such as France and China.

The Senegalese, just like the rest of the world, must be more sensitive when it comes to human trafficking. Overall, despite the grim realities of human trafficking in Senegal, progress is tangible and citizen awareness is increasing every day.

Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

Aid to SenegalSenegal’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa, with a growth rate of above 6% from 2014 to 2018. The country is home to 15.4 million people and is one of the most stable countries in the region. The service industry heavily burgeoned this growth, which made up about 60% of the country’s total GDP. The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major slowdown in growth, falling to an estimated 1.3% in 2020. Although the country has instituted a comprehensive stimulus plan, Senegal’s economy is still facing a slow and painful recovery, which could be disastrous for the country’s long-term future. Aid to Senegal is essential for the country’s recovery.

Incoming Aid to Senegal

In a press release on November 11, 2020, Germany and the European Union (EU) announced the approval of relief funding for Senegal — 112 million euros in EU funding and 100 million euros in funding from Germany itself. The EU has a broader history of aid to Senegal, with more than a billion euros of aid sent from 2014 to 2020. Germany also has a history of friendship with Senegal, as the two entered into a reform partnership in 2019. The amount of aid rendered illustrates the strong commitment of both the EU and Germany to Senegal’s economy. The money will go toward Senegal’s COVID-19 stimulus program and will enable the government to continue relief efforts for its population.

German development minister, Gerd Müller, was strongly in favor of aid to Senegal and described many problems currently ailing Senegal’s economy. Nearly half of the country is unemployed and the shrinking economy will especially impact small and medium businesses, which make up 90% of all Senegalese jobs. Müller says, “We must not forget that the consequences of COVID-19 are far more dramatic in developing countries.”

Impact of Aid to Senegal

Müller is optimistic that the aid will enable the protection of jobs and the production of medical equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. The Senegalese government also started a program for businesses to receive cash loans for support.

Although Senegal’s economy is robust, it is still dependent on foreign aid to finance these measures. Aside from the aid coming from the EU and Germany, the World Bank approved $100 million worth of aid back in June 2020, demonstrating a need for further funding to prevent larger setbacks in Senegal’s economy.

An Admirable COVID-19 Reponse

The way that Senegal handled the COVID-19 pandemic itself has received praise throughout the world. It ranks second only to New Zealand on Foreign Policy’s Global COVID-19 Response Index, which measures the response of national leaders to the pandemic. The country took broad health safety measures at the beginning of the crisis, which had an unfortunate impact on Senegal’s economy. International aid to Senegal plays a large role in the country’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

soccer players practicing philanthropy
Soccer, or football players to most of the world, are most often recognized for their impressive work on the field. However, professional soccer players have a lot of potential for impactful good off the field. This, due to their status, influence and financial capabilities. Listed here are five soccer players (part of FIFA) who have a powerful impact on the lives of impoverished peoples. Importantly, their reach extends throughout the world. These are great examples of professional soccer players practicing philanthropy.

5 FIFA Soccer Players Practicing Philanthropy

  1. Lionel Messi is an Argentine footballer who plays forward and captains La Liga club, Barcelona and the Argentinian national team. In response to COVID-19, Messi has made a wide variety of contributions through his organization, The Leo Messi Foundation. He began his foundation in 2007. Its mission focuses on helping kids and teenagers using health, education and sports initiatives. Messi has donated €1 million, split between Hospital Clinic in Catalunya and a health center in Argentina. Additionally, he gave €200,000 to UNICEF projects in Kenya. As a result, more than 2,000 citizens gained access to clean water.
  2. Mohammed Salah is a winger for the English Premier League club, Liverpool and the Egyptian national team. Salah has donated thousands of tons of food and fresh meat to his hometown in Egypt, to help families who have been impacted by COVID-19. Also, Salah donated to the Bassioun General Hospital. Moreover, he (along with his father) gave land to establish a sewage treatment plant in his hometown. With this effort, he hopes to provide a stable source of clean water to the region. Furthermore, Salah has been selected as the first ambassador for the U.N. Instant Network Schools, which connects refugees and host countries’ students with online education opportunities.
  3. Sadio Mane is a forward for the English Premier League club, Liverpool. Mane is funding the construction of a hospital for the village of Bambali, Senegal, where he was born. He took inspiration to do so after losing his father to a stomach illness, with no hospital in the village available to help him. Considering Senegal’s inhabitants, 33% are below the poverty line and Mane’s contributions to schools, hospitals and mosques in his home village are helping improve the quality of life for individuals living there.
  4. Mesut Ozil is a German footballer who plays as a midfielder for the English Premier League club, Arsenal. It is reported that he has paid for more than 1,000 operations for children across the world, food for 100,000 refugees in Turkey and Syria and is an ambassador for the children’s charity — Rays of Sunshine, in England.
  5. Jermain Defoe is currently a striker for the Scottish Premiership club, Rangers. He created the Jermain Defoe Foundation in 2013 to support at-risk youth in his family’s hometown, Caribbean, St. Lucia. His foundation’s mission is to help kids who are vulnerable and in need in the U.K., the Caribbean Islands and Northern Island. His grandparents grew up in St. Lucia and his foundation has worked on several projects in St. Lucia. The foundation’s work includes the refurbishment of the Soufriere Primary School after a hurricane,  donation of shoes to the Daigen School and the financial backing of The Rainbow Children’s Home.

Good Work: On and Off the Pitch

In addition to their work on the football pitch, these soccer players practicing philanthropy are doing excellent work for humanitarian missions and initiatives.  The contributions of these soccer players in healthcare, education and nutrition are improving the lives of the individuals affected by their initiatives worldwide.

Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Strawberries Are a Sweet Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Senegal
A strawberry company named FraiSen is boosting economic growth in Africa and demonstrating that social enterprises are the future of innovations in poverty eradication in Senegal.

Poverty in Senegal

Senegal has long-term peace and political stability. However, much of the country is still in poverty. According to the World Food Program, 39% of the Senegal population live in poverty. In addition, about 75% of families suffer from chronic poverty. Poverty in Senegal has critical links to irregularities in the agricultural industry. Unpredictable rainfall patterns and inefficient farming practices have resulted in a struggling overall economy.

Alarming Job Loss in Africa

Additionally, the global COVID-19 outbreak is taking a major toll on African economies. As the African Development Bank reported, projections have determined that 24 to 30 million Africans could lose their jobs in 2020 alone. This is especially serious because many developing countries in Africa, like Senegal, already suffer high rates of poverty.

Social enterprises could be the solution to the poverty that the global COVID-19 outbreak in Africa has caused. According to a British Council study, “Social enterprises are five times more likely to support vulnerable groups like women and people living in poverty than profit-first businesses … which could be key in helping those hardest hit by job losses during COVID-19.” Social enterprises are a beneficial tool for African economies recovering from the pandemic. It is also a critical part of innovation in poverty eradication in Senegal.

Social Enterprise in Senegal

In Senegal, a technology and innovation hub called Kosmos Innovation Center is working to cultivate sustainable economic growth in West Africa by sponsoring new social enterprises. The Kosmos Innovation Center aims to contribute to the creation of healthier and more diverse economies. It will do this by helping the new generation of entrepreneurs and facilitating innovation in sectors beyond oil and gas. By supporting African businesses, Kosmos Innovation Center is creating jobs and reducing poverty in Africa.

So What About Strawberries?

One of Kosmos’ projects is a social enterprise in Dakar, Senegal called FraiSen. FraiSen is a centralized network of small strawberry farms in Senegal along with several African countries. Due to the country’s climate, the strawberry industry had great potential in Senegal in the past. However, the industry lacked the technical and transportation resources and efficiency necessary to make the industry profitable on an international scale.

FraiSen gives the necessary resources and training to the small strawberry farms in order to maximize the strawberry yield and export them to other African countries and even to Europe. By facilitating and connecting these small businesses, FraiSen is creating higher-paying job opportunities in impoverished communities. It bolsters the “Made in Africa” label across the continent. Currently, FraiSen receives orders for approximately 10 tons of strawberries per week.

FraiSen is just one example of a social enterprise that is reducing poverty by growing small, African businesses and creating sustainable job opportunities in developing countries. Its success demonstrates the potential for Senegal to more widely use social enterprises as an innovation in poverty eradication in Senegal.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

Senegalese ChildrenOver the past ten years, there has been a sharp global concern for Senegalese children’s well-being in schools, on the streets and within their own homes. The awareness of the brutal physical, mental and sexual treatment that many Senegalese children are subject to in modern society cannot be examined with a blind eye. Noko-Boku is a nonprofit organization that is having a direct impact on improving the lives of individual children living in Senegal.

Treatment in Schools

Over 50% of Senegal’s population lives in rural areas, making educational institutions challenging and school choice nonexistent. Many children miss the opportunity to attend school because of geographical barriers and familial responsibilities. Only 57% of students living in urban areas enroll in established educational centers.

Physical discipline from teachers is a common experience among children as young as 6-years-old. This makes the student-teacher relationship rigid and unwelcoming. Not only does this propel many students into detesting the school experience, but it also limits the number of safe spaces they have in their daily lives.

Senegalese Children on Streets

Additionally, hundreds of newborn boys in Senegal have no roof over their heads or family to comfort their cries. Many orphaned children among the streets of the nation’s capital Dakar are known as talibé children. They live in the same building that they attend their religious school teachings called Quranic Institutions. These children sleep on crowded sand floors with little to no personal belongings. Their lives have become an endless amount of physical and mental beatings that stay ingrained in them forever.

The fact that the children are subject to daily distress in their school hours is not the only issue. After the Quran’s teachings, a text that preaches peace, the students are forced to roam about the city’s jammed streets and beg for money and food. They receive beatings for showing up empty-handed to their “masters” or caretakers. Talibé children are in grave danger every day. The choice between the Quranic Schools and the streets is between a covered place to sleep or the sandy roads.

Tensions at Home

Furthermore, there is a mortality rate of 78% for children 5 years and under. With this rate, the need to improve home life among infant and toddler Senegalese children is crucial. It is common for very young children to live with extended family or neighbors when growing up instead of with their parents. This results from parents’ occupational obligations or immigration sacrifices to give their children and families a better future. The change in living situations and locations disrupts the mental and physical state of innocent growing children. Rates of sexual and physical abuse are much higher in children living in these estranged situations. This is because of the lack of supervision and trust between the child and the caretaker.

Noko-Boko’s Roots

In 2018 about 650,000 Senegalese children were not enrolled in schools or learning centers. This stunts their social and emotional growth. Zahra Thiam is the president and founder of Noko-Boku. She explained the catalyst of why so many young children are out of school in Senegal. She specified why this happens in the Kaolack region, where she was born and raised. There is an extreme lack of funding for instructors, supplies and materials in this region and all over Senegal. There is also a lack of essential resources for students throughout the school days, such as food. Thiam says that more schools in Senegal need to be provided with the proper financial and staff support. As a result, the Senegalese school day would improve dramatically. This improvement would be made in the teachings and the spirits of the teachers and students alike.

Noko-Boko is a community-run organization that started in 2018. Every year, it has made incredible efforts to help rebuild and reform schools, orphanages and individual lives of children from Zahra’s village and surrounding towns of the Kaolack region. In the 2018 to 2019 school year, the organization raised $413 to buy school supplies providing a kit to each of the 300 students. These kits consisted of a notebook, three pens, three pencils and geometric tools. Zahra Thiam says that access to quality education is the way to help these Senegalese children out of the oppressive cycle of poverty. It is also a way of showing them that there is so much that the world has to offer and so much that they can offer to the world. Her dedication to raising the quality of education and life for young children in her community is remarkable.

What is Noko-Boko’s Future?

COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on Senegal. With many Senegalese children without a home and many living in orphanages, the need for sanitary supplies is dire. A generous $400 donation from the president of Noko-Boku gave over 100 children clean diapers and disinfectant cleaners. It also gave them wearable garments for physical protection. Although these funds went a long way, Noko-Boku needs people worldwide to have a more profound effect on underprivileged and impoverished children living in the Kaolack region of Senegal. There is a Noko-Boku GoFundMe page with more information on how to help.

 Overall, in the final words of Zahra Thiam, “Changing the level of opportunities and treatment of children in Senegal starts with community action and advocacy. However, we cannot conquer the injustices in education, housing, hunger and abuse alone. We need help from individuals around the world with an open heart to hear and aid the needs of these innocent bright lives to create a better future and more equitable world.”

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Helping Children Off the Streets
In French, SAMU stands for “Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente,” meaning “Urgent Medical Services.” However, Samu Social is something very different. Samu Social works with the homeless and the impoverished to maintain and restore social bonds, to deliver entertainment and education and to deliver basic medical and food-related services. One of its most significant missions is helping children off the streets in Senegal.

Samu Social denotes a comprehensive approach to helping the world’s poor that places a huge emphasis on social interaction. Dr. Xavier Emmanuelli founded Samu Social in Paris in 1993. In 1998, Dr. Emmanuelli founded the umbrella organization Samu Social International. One branch of the Samu Social International that deserves a spotlight is Samu Social Senegal. This organization mainly operates in the capital city of Dakar and focuses on the plight of young street children, most of whom are talibé.

A Dangerous History of Exploitation

In West Africa in particular, there is a strong tradition of young children becoming talibé, students of the Quran who study with a marabout, a Quranic teacher. Senegal is 95.5% Muslim, and marabout can wield immense power and influence not just in the religious world, but in politics and business as well. As a result, the Senegalese view sending one’s child to study with a marabout at a daara, a Muslim school, one of the few avenues to success and prosperity.

To be sure, there are many good marabouts in Senegal who do not exploit their charges and faithfully impart their knowledge of the Quran. That being said, Human Rights Watch estimates that over 100,000 talibé must beg for food and money every day in Senegal. Beyond that, it is thought that many talibé who remain in the daara are subject to extreme abuse, malnutrition and lack of medical care. The problem has reached epidemic proportions, with President Mack Sall vowing to “remove children from the streets.” However, the extreme power and influence of many marabouts have hampered government efforts.

How Samu Social Senegal is Making a Difference

Enter Samu Social Senegal which, as a part of Samu Social International, “reaches out to the most desocialized people who have been pushed into a state of basic survival, as they have become ‘victims’, no longer able nor willing to seek ordinarily available assistance.” In Senegal, those people are often talibé, set adrift in the big city of Dakar with no guidance other than the imperative to beg. Samu Social Senegal helps these children primarily in two ways: with street rounds and accommodation.

Samu Social Senegal has two Mobile Assistance Teams (MAT) composed of a social worker, a physician and a driver. These teams drive around Dakar day and night, five days a week, amounting to more than 350 rounds per year. They do this to identify and help at-risk and vulnerable children. The MATs receive extensive training to accomplish four main missions:

  1. Medical assistance, both on the spot and in the form of referrals to hospitals.
  2. Psychosocial support, identifying vulnerable children, and responding to them constructively.
  3. Preventative education, focusing on general health, STDs, and substance abuse.
  4. Paving a way out of the street, helping rehabilitate children and reinsert them into a healthy social and professional atmosphere.

The MATs have seen success in Dakar by identifying nearly 8,000 children each year. Moreover, they distribute nearly 6,000 nutritional support packs each year along with the conducting of over 2,500 individual medical and social interventions.

How Samu Social Senegal Aids Children

However, this is only half of the work that Samu Social Senegal does in its mission of helping children off the streets. Some of its most important work is the providing of accommodations to children who are physically or psychologically vulnerable. Samu Social Senegal accommodations provide comprehensive support medically, socially and psychologically. They place a huge emphasis on rehabilitation of the body and mind using not only medical and psychological practices, but also more basic methods such as compulsory controlled social interaction, games, and artistic activities. Samu Social Senegal hosts up to 600 children each year, providing about 30,000 meals.

Ultimately, this is necessary to get children off the street, rehabilitate them and then reintegrate them into healthy and productive members of society. While it can be difficult to evaluate what it means to leave the street behind, Samu Social has helped reunite 521 families between 2016-2018, a success rate of 96.5%. Furthermore, it estimates that since 2004, 1,500 children have left the street in a “durable” way.

The problem of street children is a catastrophe not only in Senegal or West Africa but across the world. Such pervasive, entrenched practices and people can only undergo reform through the government. In the meantime, however, it is incredibly important to provide these children with the resources they need to rehabilitate. Samu Social Senegal should receive commendation for its excellent work helping children off the streets.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Wikipedia Commons