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Homelessness in SenegalSenegal is often seen as a stable country politically and economically relative to its neighbors in the West African region. This perception has been further validated in the last decade with its peaceful elections and a GDP growth averaging approximately 6% since 2014. Still, the country is not without its challenges. Though poverty hasn’t been measured since 2011, it is estimated that around 39% of the population lives below the poverty line. Homelessness in Senegal is a major consequence of poverty that needs urgent attention, especially amid COVID-19.

Street Youths of Dakar

In Senegal, homelessness especially affects many children. In the capital city of Dakar, which has a population of 1.06 million people, an estimated 40,000 street youths are without shelter. Some of these children are Talibes. Talibes are “youths from Koranic schools known as daaras who are forced to beg for money. There are also those who fled such schools. Others come from broken families or have lost their homes because of poverty.”

Recently COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown have exasperated the lives of these homeless children in Senegal. The thin protection these children once had in small generosities from restaurants and pedestrians have been erased as services and public pedestrian presence have gone dormant for lockdown. Lackluster sanitation and drug usage compound the street youths’ vulnerable position amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early July 2020, Senegal has reported thousands of cases of COVID-19 and under 100 deaths.

Helping Hands

In April, Senegal’s Ministry of Family launched a coronavirus emergency plan for street children, opening up about 13 educational social centers and other venues in Dakar. Outside of government support, NGOs like the French-Senegalese Village Pilote has aided homeless children in Dakar sprung into action. Village Pilote offers homeless children in Senegal meals and shelter as well as space for recreation. Issa Faye, a 19-year-old living on the street told Reuters: “Because of the disease people were avoiding us, we had problems getting (medical) treatment, and also the police kept running after us. Only this centre accepts children and youngsters our age and from the streets…”

Value of Aid

COVID-19 highlights how easily vulnerable demographics such as the homeless street youths of Senegal can be left behind without consideration, underscoring the value of aid. Supporting funding for the International Affairs Budget to address the consequences of the pandemic is also essential to protecting the health, security and economic interests of all Americans.

– Caleb Hughes
Photo: Flickr

obamasenegal1_opt
President Obama kicked off his tour of three African countries with a visit to the coastal francophone nation of Senegal.  Although the visit to the small West African country was framed as a reward for regional leadership and democratic successes, Obama did face a few challenges on the first stop of his week-long African trip.

Six years and only one African visit after his initial election, the Obama-mania of the continent has cooled substantially.  And while Obama was greeted by crowds of proud Senegalese wearing ‘Welcome Home, Mr. President’ t-shirts, some critics expressed concerns over the government-sanctioned ‘sanitization’ of the usually chaotic capital of Dakar in preparation for Obama’s arrival.

Despite the polished front, poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity are still the reality for the majority of Senegalese living on the fringe, and many citizens are hopeful that Obama’s visit is a sign of increased partnership and aid to come.  In his speech, however, Obama focused primarily on questions regarding domestic issues, not regional economic development.

Also on the agenda was a visit by the President and First Lady to the House of Slaves on Gorée Island, a UNESCO site and infamous historical slave trade hub where thousands of enslaved Africans were held before being shipped across the Atlantic.  Obama called the sobering visit to the site ‘…a powerful moment,’ and spoke of the importance of taking action on human rights and issues of equality.

President Obama also spoke encouragingly of Africa’s global importance as a continent full of potential. ‘The reason I came to Africa is because Africa is rising,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘And it is in the United States’ interests — not simply in Africa’s interests — that the United States don’t miss the opportunity to deepen and broaden the partnerships and potential here.’

He continued, ‘This is going to be a continent that is on the move. It is young. It is vibrant and full of energy. And there’s a reason why a lot of other countries around the world are spending a lot of time here.’

The President’s trip to Africa also included visits to Tanzania and South Africa and marked an important effort at shaping policy on trade, security, and human rights in the region.

– David Wilson

Sources: New York Times, USA Today
Photo: Breitbart

Obama in Senegal
President Obama’s first stop on his trip to Africa was Senegal, a fitting choice for a president who has made agriculture and food security major issues during his presidency. Senegal’s recent progress, which the President mentioned during his speech in Dakar, exemplifies the promise of the President’s approach to agriculture and food security.

In recent years, Senegal has made great strides in improving the standard of living for its citizens. The country has reduced poverty dramatically and is on track to halve the proportion of the population whose income is less than $1.25 per day.

Senegal’s government has also prioritized spending on agriculture. Agriculture expenditures represented 109.6 million, or 9.5% of the government’s total spending for 2011. Between 2003 and 2009, Senegal spent an average of 12.1% of the budget on agriculture. This increased spending has translated into strong growth for the sector.

The United States has played a large role in Senegal’s improvements and will continue to support the country. The U.S. plans to continue supporting programs that improve farmer productivity. With U.S. support, Senegal’s national agriculture plan emphasizes strengthening crop productivity through the distribution of seeds, fertilizers, and tools.

The private sector of the United States can also play a crucial role in the development of the agricultural sector of Senegal. In the President’s remarks in Dakar, he said he looks forward to Senegal joining the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition later this year. The New Alliance’s model combines pro-investment policies committed to by African governments, substantial private sector investments to strengthen agricultural productivity for smallholder farms, and donor government support for country-led plans.

– Matthew Jackoski

Source: ABC News, ONE
Photo: Global Post