Although one of the region’s more stable countries, Senegal remains a low-income, food-deficit nation with an estimated population of 11.6 million. In 2006, Senegal moved up one place on the UNDP Human Development Index and now ranks 156th out of 177 countries.
Malnutrition levels are persistently high, (16.4 percent chronic malnutrition in children under the age of five) partly due to poor dietary habits, poor sanitation, and low levels of literacy and nutritional awareness among women. Chronic malnutrition is twice as high in rural than in urban areas. The prevalence of iron deficiency at levels over 70 percent in women and children under 5 years is of serious concern. Only 26.3 percent of rural households have access to iodised salt, which is essential for the prevention of goitre.
The law provides for free education and government policy declares education to be compulsory for children ages 6 to 16. However, many children do not attend school due to lack of resources or available facilities. Access to education remains a concern particularly in the regions of Kaolack and Fatick, where the gross enrolment rates (GER) remain well below the national average. In the 2005-2006 academic year, more girls than boys were enrolled in primary school for the first time ever. However, high female illiteracy rates (44 percent) and school drop out rates of 30 percent affect mostly rural girls in vulnerable areas.
Due to subsistence agricultural practices, environmental damage and recurring natural disasters such as the 2004 locust invasion, sustainable food security for the poorest and most vulnerable is not yet an achievable goal. Around 50 percent of households are affected by poverty and devote up to 48 percent of household expenditures on food. Poverty levels are particularly acute in rural areas, where access to basic social services, such as health and education, is inadequate.
According to a recent WFP vulnerability analysis and mapping (VAM) study, 46 percent of households in Senegal are vulnerable to food insecurity, with 20 percent considered as highly vulnerable. The post-conflict region of Casamance is particularly vulnerable, with poverty rates among the highest in the country and more than 49 percent of households considered as vulnerable to food insecurity.
While the Peace Agreement signed in 2004 by the Government of Senegal and the separatist movement MFDC formally ended two decades of separatist fighting in the Casamance, the situation in the region remains tense with sporadic violence causing continued displacement. There are currently an estimated 6,500 Senegalese refugees in The Gambia and around 1,200 are still displaced within the Casamance region, following conflict in Fogny.
Currently, a number of refugees who sought shelter in Guinea-Bissau and internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in the region of Ziguinchor are returning to their villages in Casamance on the Guinea-Bissau border. In areas where no assistance is available to returnees, their sustainable reintegration continues to be hampered by limited social infrastructure and services and the presence of mines that prevents them from resuming farming.
WFP assists almost one million people through its Country Programme (CP) 2007-2011 focusing primarily on nutrition, education and crisis prevention activities. The programme reaches pre/primary school children in rural areas; pregnant and lactating women who participate in nutrition awareness sessions; and vulnerable people from highly food insecure rural households.
Government partner capacity building in the development and management of food security and crisis prevention programmes is a cross-cutting aim.
The objectives of WFP’s Country Programme are to:
- support implementation of the Government’s programmes for eradication of malnutrition among children under 5;
- improve children’s access to quality basic education;
- improve access by vulnerable groups to food security and improved managementof natural resources.
In addition, WFP provides assistance to aid post-conflict recovery to 380,000 beneficiaries in the Casamance region through its 2005-2007 Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) that aims at:
- increasing the ability of the target population to handle shocks and meet food needs by strengthening local primary production;
- mitigating unemployment faced by vulnerable urban population groups, particularly women;
- enhancing access to literacy and life-skills programmes, especially for women and adolescents;
- increasing attendance at WFP-assisted primary schools for children from vulnerable groups.
WFP support is targeted to the poorest and most food insecure areas of Kaolack, Fatick, Tambacounda, Kolda and Ziguinchor, identified according to poverty and vulnerability criteria established by a Vulnerability Analysis Mapping (VAM).