Senegal is the western-most point of the African continent. It is a former French colony and was a major center for slave trading through its Goree Island during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, Senegal is a peaceful and democratic nation, with 58 percent of the total population under the age of 20. Like many developing countries, Senegal faces many challenges such as high unemployment, poor access to education particularly for girls, limited health care for mothers and children under 5, food shortages and lack of access to clean water.
ChildFund has served children in Senegal since 1985.
Health From the Beginning
In Senegal, health care is inaccessible for most rural communities. In a country where 54 percent of people live in poverty, this means that preventable illnesses and deaths are all too frequent, especially among the most vulnerable: children.
To help stop the spread of diseases, we teach prevention and treat those who are infected. One way we do this is through Health Huts, which serve as vital hubs for learning and living and are run by trained community volunteers. Health huts improve family health and community health by targeting areas and practices that have a crucial impact on public health: mother, child and newborn health; family planning; fight against illness; community-based malaria control with focused interventions; and information education for health behavioral change.
In its support for this work, ChildFund has amassed significant experience managing donor-funded health projects in Senegal. In 1998, ChildFund Senegal began a nutrition program funded by USAID/Washington that was extended until 2006; in 2003-06, USAID/Senegal funded ChildFund Senegal to conduct a malaria and TB program; and in 2006, ChildFund Senegal was awarded $12.8 million by USAID to lead a consortium of four international organizations for a five-year Community Health Project (PSSC). In 2007, ChildFund Senegal was asked to extend the consortium to include six organizations to implement a $7.8 million President’s Malaria Initiative program in five regions as an adjunct to the original PSSC grant. Most recently, ChildFund won a $40 million grant to extend this work and expand access to health care throughout Senegal.
ChildFund Senegal is also currently the lead executing agent for the Programme de Renforcement de la Nutrition (PRN), a nutrition program funded by the government of Senegal and the World Bank in 10 districts, and an implementing partner on a USAID/OFDA-funded food security project. In addition, ChildFund Senegal is working alongside Catholic Relief Services on the Water Resources Integrated Management Program funded by OMVS to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with malaria and other diseases.
A Child’s Early Years
ChildFund’s efforts to support early childhood development are designed to provide education and support to parents during the first years of their children’s lives, and to facilitate harmonious transitions from home to formal education as well as between educational activities and other social services. Trained Guide Mothers teach new mothers about child care and how to understand and support their children’s development, fostering high-quality relationships within families so that children can experience their full potential even from the earliest years. Early Childhood Development centers extend this quality of environment, providing age-appropriate and culturally relevant activities to continue fostering children’s development. With the high level of parent participation they require, these centers become hubs for community development and sources of continued education and support for the children’s parents.
In this country of gender and age inequity, it is important to include girls and women in educational efforts. We have improved learning environments through infrastructure, equipment and material support. We work to provide access to quality educational opportunities in 72 kindergartens, 120 primary schools and 38 teenage skills training centers. Lifelong adult learning programs target women and youth through 27 literacy centers.
Young people benefit from ChildFund’s services in Senegal through activities designed to improve their livelihood and entrepreneurial skills. Youth-friendly reproductive health training helps them make better decisions as they move into adulthood. Through training in leadership and other life skills, young people also become empowered to offer their unique contributions to promoting the well-being of their communities.