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COVID-19 threatens food security for Senegalese women

COVID-19 has hit every community around the world. In Africa, the number of cases surpassed 500,000. Since March, the virus has claimed 11 959 lives, overtaking the 11 308 lives lost in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016. In Senegal where Crossroads operates, the WHO has recorded 7,657 confirmed cases and 60 people lost their lives. If these numbers are low compared to other countries, the impact of the livelihoods of local communities including women is devastating.

In the country, more than one-third of the population already lives below the poverty line, and 75% of families suffer from chronic poverty. COVID-19 pushed local governments to restrict gathering and close markets threatening food supplies and economic opportunities for many vulnerable households.

On June 23, 2020 Senegalese partners Arona Diop, Director at RESOPP, Rama Faye, Director of Feminist Dynamic at a local cooperative, COORAP and Ousmane Sarr, Communications Officer at RESOPP shared the daily reality of local communities as they face the pandemic and its disastrous consequences.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 arrived, like everywhere in the world, not only in Senegal, to slow down a lot of activities especially on the side of women. Because the weekly markets are closed when there were many traders who, once the products were processed, would sell them at the level of the weekly markets. Look, what if these weekly markets are closed when women are going to become with their products?” said Rama Faye, Director of one of the cooperatives.

For many families, as men and women are out of work, they are running out of options to feed themselves and their children. Ousmane Sarr, Communications Officer at RESOPP added the state of mind of Senegalese people is: “If COVID does not kill us, hunger will”.

Programming is limited because of the lockdown and restrictions including Drop by Drop, an initiative targeting 1500 women farmers to support them as they learn new skills to fight the consequences of climate change and increase their access to water.

“The project is greatly affected. This part of the activities is slowing down, if not completely stopped. Because there were a lot of training activities planned,” said Arona Diop, Executive Director of RESOPP noting the lack of food forced farmers to use their seeds for the coming year to feed their family.

With the economy slowly opening up again and the restrictions being reduced, they hope to resume their work with the communities. Crossroads is working with donors to ensure more seeds can be purchased and that despite the delay in planting, food security can be restored.

Watch the full conversation in French below:

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