The child poverty dynamics in Senegal: Interview with UNICEF Representative in Senegal, Giovanna Barberis
Q: What are the key findings and challenges facing children in Senegal addressed in the (Child Poverty and Disparities) study?
A: As in most countries in West and Central Africa, far too many children are highly vulnerable. Despite progress, poverty remains high, particularly in rural areas and children are more greatly affected by poverty than other segments of the population.
The study, undertaken in 2008, found that 3 out of 5 children in Senegal do not have access to essential services. Senegalese children suffer the most severe deprivation in matters of housing and education; in rural areas and in families where the head of the household has little or no education.
Children also face a limited access to health services. For instance, 21% of children have never received any vaccination. Yet, significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality since 1990.
A great leap has also been achieved in terms of access to primary school in the last 10 years – the pupils population almost doubled and reached parity between girls and boys. However, disparities persist, especially between rural and urban areas. And it is estimated that more than one fourth of primary school age are out of the formal school system and even when children are in school, drop-out rates are high, especially for the 20 percent poorest children.
Q: You mention an urban-rural divide. Can you tell more about this?
A: The study reveals the disparities and inequities between children living in different areas and in different households. For instance, it found than children in rural areas stand more chances not to be registered at birth, to work, to be married prematurely or to suffer from malnutrition.
And again, the hardship of children from the 20 per cent poorest households and children who live in families where the head of household has little or no education is greater.
Q: What are the policy implications to improve the situation of children?
A: The study gives a set of recommendations to address the deprivations and disparities affecting children. Among them, the need to target public expenditure and policies to make a greater impact for children is a priority.
For example, this means making investments more efficient in the education sector to address inequities and disparities and to ensure access to a quality education for all.
Also, it is essential to invest in innovative social safety nets, such as targeted cash transfer programmes, to promote child health and development and combat malnutrition. This is even more true in the context of the food, fuel and financial crisis.
Q: Can you tell us more about the impact of the global crisis on children?
A: Many families facing rising food and energy prices and a budget crunch may resort to coping strategies such as removing their children from school to work or care for relatives. They also reduce the variety and quality of their diet which often result in malnutrition.
Recent surveys conducted in rural and urban areas, in collaboration with the World Food Programme and Food and Agricultural Organization, have shown that child malnutrition has worsened in recent months.
The crisis has caused a slowdown in economic growth, cuts in social spending, a reduction in remittances from abroad and a decline in job opportunities - all of these factors could reverse the gains made in health, education and child protection. And this is not an option. A steady investment in the social sectors is required to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
Especially during this economic downturn, the Government of Senegal and its partners must strive to achieve education for all, better health and nutrition for every child.
In addition, it is also very important to improve the protection of children from abuse and violence. This will require the formulation of a national strategy for child protection, which includes promoting the reporting of abuses and rights violations and a better coordination of efforts made by the Government and its partners.
The focus on ending violence against children during the recent celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the rights of the child is one illustration of the government's commitment to improve the well-being of children.
The full report can be found here.
This story was extracted from and can be found at http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/2009_3827.html
Focal Point: Remy Pigois