Senegal massively distributes food to cushion the shock of the coronavirus
By AFP | April 29th 2020
In a suburb of Dakar, a man places a heavy bag of rice on a cart pulled by a donkey. He is one of the first beneficiaries of a large distribution of food aid launched on Tuesday to help Senegalese families cope with the consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic.
To try to stem the transmission of the new coronavirus, the authorities have established a night curfew, closed the borders, prohibited traffic between regions or closed hotels and restaurants.
For more than a month, key sectors such as fishing or tourism have been idling or stalled, suddenly depriving countless informal sector workers of income, who often live from day to day.
To alleviate the shock suffered by the most precarious populations, the government has promised to erase certain water and electricity bills and launched a food aid distribution plan.
In recent days, trucks have started to transport food, notably to Guinaw-Rails, some 20 km from the center of Dakar.
Stored in the backyard of a cultural center, these essential products were divided into individual lots, consisting of 100 kg of rice, 10 kg of soap, sugar, oil and pasta, a value of 66,000 CFA francs (100 euros).
Tuesday, in the presence of the authorities, the first beneficiaries came to collect their parcels. Only about sixty of them had received an invitation, out of some 3,200 families concerned in this popular district of the town of Pikine, wedged between a highway ramp and a disused railway track.
"We will proceed in batches of 30 households, to avoid gatherings. Each household is convened at a specific time," said an official from AFP, an official from the Ministry of Community Development.
With a budget of 69 billion CFA francs (105 million euros), the operation must mobilize some 888 trucks, including 35 from the army, to convey this food to remote regions.
It is in addition to smaller-scale distributions organized by private companies, religious associations and local authorities.
One million households, or 8 to 10 million people out of 16 million inhabitants, should receive this government assistance in kind in the coming days.
At Guinaw-Rails, Ami Sakho, a 37-year-old shopkeeper, was among the first to wait for her package. A fish seller, she has stopped working since the onset of the illness.
"I have eight children with my husband, who is polygamous but does not work. I cannot go out anymore because of this illness," she said.
She is delighted that "this aid goes to the populations concerned, to help the poor", while many Senegalese said they feared embezzlement.
Diarra Ndiaye, in her forties, works in a school, closed like all those in the country.
"This help will relieve us. My husband is a carpenter but now he stops working earlier", to respect the curfew, which starts at 8:00 p.m. "We have no salary. I have six children with my husband, who has two wives," she said.
The Minister of Community Development, Mansour Faye, assured during a short ceremony that the whole operation, which should last ten days, would take place "in the rules of the art". "We have made a wise choice of households," he said.
"This is a very large-scale operation, of significant complexity. I hope that we continue to watch over the respect of barrier gestures, while respecting social distancing," said the minister.
Senegal officially has 823 cases of Covid-19, including nine deaths. Figures which remain much lower than those recorded in Europe or the United States, but the authorities are concerned about the progression of so-called "community" cases, that is to say without any established link with already known cases.
A "community" case tested positive on Monday alone infected 25 people, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Merchants, some of whom defy the ban on movement to transport their products, particularly to Dakar, are particularly exposed. They are also preferred vectors of transmission.
At the start of Ramadan, the Senegalese people also gathered at the markets or stood in line in front of the bakeries to prepare for the breaking of the fast, without always wearing a mask, which was however compulsory.
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