Families who raise and grow their own food depend on favorable weather conditions to get them through the growing season. Too much rainfall means crops can be washed away. Too little means a lack of nutrients for plants and animals.
When a rainfall shortage struck the Sahel region of Senegal, farmers and families who depend on their own production found themselves in a very tough spot. Seasonal floods at the end of 2015 made the situation even more difficult. This scarcity left many people hungry, malnourished, and out of options.
In September, the American Red Cross contributed $150,000 and teamed up with the Senegal Red Cross and British Red Cross to fight hunger head-on. Teams of volunteers traveled to food-insecure places around the region to distribute cash vouchers to families identified as most in-need. Close to 10,000 people benefited from the vouchers, which could be redeemed for staple foods at pre-selected vendors. Families were able to purchase items such as rice, corn, millet, sorghum, salt, sugar and oil, helping bridge the gap until next growing season. Flooded plains blocked access by 4x4 vehicles, so Red Cross teams—including the American Red Cross’s Christopher Herby—traveled hours by horse-drawn cart to reach farmers and pastoralists in need.
In Senegal, the American Red Cross’s goal was to prevent families from instituting “coping mechanisms” in order to feed their children. For example, without the cash vouchers, many families may have had to pull their children out of school in order to pay for food. Sometimes these seemingly small actions can make a big difference in people’s lives.