Economic and Social Cultural Rights: Senegal 2006
In June/July 2006, FAI participated at a women’s leadership program in Dakar. At the same time, the organization visited two settlements of some of the 2005 flood victims in Senegal, as well as Medina Gounass. During the months of August and September 2005, the Senegalese capital Dakar and its impoverished suburbs were devastated by the heaviest rains seen in two decades with 5,600 people displaced by floods and thousands still living in water around their ankles. FAI visited these sites as well as the makeshift settlements. The purpose of this trip was central to the mission of FAI – to promote social justice and human rights. These displaced families see themselves as “the forgotten,” partly because they were not news anymore and the government seems to think that their case was settled.
According to some of the locals, these areas were once a river before they came to live their. That was why it kept flooding whenever it rained. Like many of the suburbs to have sprouted around the Senegal capital, in recent years, this town (Medina Gounas) was built on swampy ground. Therefore each rainy season, the low lying basins close to the water table becomes flooded. Typically, the residents invest on sacks of sands and trash to stop the water from leaking into their homes. But 2005 unusually heavy downpours were too much even for those who took precautions.
Swarms of snakes and mosquitoes mill about in the greenish rainy water. The combination of water and garbage triggered an explosion of cholera, a water borne disease which can kill within a day by inducing sever vomiting and diarrhea. . An estimated twenty-five thousand people were infected country-wide. The stagnant water increase the threat of malaria among the residents of this community.
An estimated eighty thousand children of primary school age were out of school. And they suffered from different health issues for example cholera, diarrhea, malaria, rashes, etc. Cases of violence against women was on the increase. Women were raped frequently and there was no data to quantify the number of victims. Some of them continue to live amongst the contaminated waters so as to protect their homes from looting. Others remain because they have no where else to go.
Some of the locals confirmed that it was not their choice to keep living in this condition but noted their hope for change.
FAI observed that the water which was pumped from the flooded buildings were channeled to a makeshift drainage. This is a non sustainable way of getting rid of flooding.
As soon as rainy season starts, the surrounding areas are at risk. The government, which estimated a 180, 000 people have been affected by the rains and at least 50,000 forced to abandon their homes is providing make shift shelters and food. However the existing camps for the flood victims were jam packed, with families forced to sleep outside on the floor at night.
At the time of this report in 2006, there were about 25,000 internal refugees scattered amongst eight different camps. Some of them were even placed in former military sites. Camps could not be visited without special permission from the ministry of interior and the army. As a result, journalists were kept away all together from this disaster and the public was unaware of what was happening to the displaced families. The hygiene was deplorable with mosquitoes and flies everywhere.
At one point, FAI posed these questions to the locals:
- How can FAI help?
- What should we do?
According to the locals at the time of this report, they would like to have someone come and look at their living conditions and try to change them. They truly believed this could actually happen. They confirmed that there is no sand in medina gounass to fill the streets. If someone would like to help, they should sand fill the flooded streets. People have no means of mending their own homes. They need helps with repairs.
Friends of Africa International’s recommendations
- The State needs to prioritize and respond to the basic needs of these people.
- For example they should provide clean water, access to habitable shelter, access to health services.
- This is a humanitarian disaster that demands international attention.
- FAI would like to work with the government and organizations in Senegal to rebuild new communities, a proper drainage and sewage facilities in towns like this communityv
We understand that the government of Senegal is in the process of re-settling these displaced communities.
Please go to FAI footage to see a five minute clip of this project.