Caritas Senegal at the forefront of emergencies.
Stanislas Kambashi, SJ - Vatican City
From ecological issues, migration, health and ecumenism -Caritas Senegal is the face of the Catholic Church in its social ministry. In an interview with Vatican News, Father Alphonse Seck, Secretary-General of Caritas Senegal and Vice President of Caritas Africa, spoke about the work of Caritas in his country.
Drought, access to water and agriculture
Senegal is a Sahelian country, often confronted with drought. A significant area of Caritas Senegal’s intervention is responding to food insecurity.
Another problem in the Sahel zone is access to water. Since the 1970s, a year of great drought, Caritas Senegal has been very active in the area of access to drinking water and access to water for agriculture.
“We are in the process of setting up a water service public observatory, which is due to start in January 2022. Through this, we hope to advocate for access to drinking water for all, especially rural populations. This will also allow these populations to improve their harvests. Caritas Senegal, as you know, also works in the agricultural sector, in the supervision of groups and associations of farmers, to enable them exploit the land responsibly. At the same time, we try to ensure adequate living conditions for those whose lives depend on farming,” said Father Alphonse Seck.
Migration, climate change and health
Migration is also another area of action for Caritas Senegal. The country is an intersection and a central hub of departures, transit and reception of migrants. “This explains why the Senegalese Bishops recently published a Pastoral Letter on this issue,” said Father Seck.
In addition, to all these interventions, there is the organisation’s engagement with climate change. Caritas Senegal encourages populations to return to old and tried methods that respect nature, especially in the field of agriculture.
Like other countries in Africa, Senegal has had challenges with rapid urbanisation. This has led to an increase in levels and types of waste.
“Caritas works with the population and communities in the management of waste, particularly household waste," said the Caritas Senegal Director.
Strategies to prevent Covid-19, Ebola
Another area of operation is disease prevention and protection against infectious diseases. Since the deadly 2014 - 2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, particularly in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, Caritas Senegal has run a successful prevention programme. The prevention programme now has more than 107 schools on its cards.
Suffice it to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has been added to the Caritas Senegal's portfolio as a new area concern requiring action.
Mostly non-Christian beneficiaries
Senegal is a country that is 95% Muslim. For Father Alphonse Seck, “the interventions of Caritas in the country are essential because they are a way for the Church to provide strong and credible witness. The majority of the beneficiaries of the Church’s (social) interventions are non-Christians. What is essential is to respond not to the religion to which one belongs, but to the human person in a vulnerable situation. The areas where Caritas' water programmes have been carried out, for example, are almost entirely Muslim.
It is gratifying that Caritas Senegal’s work is well received, and that the beneficiaries appreciate the services rendered, said Father Seck.