Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and families in Senegal

Canada’s support has been pivotal to help UNICEF mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children in Senegal

Lalaina F. Andriamasinoro
UNICEF Senegal/2022/Fall
23 March 2022

DAKAR (Senegal), 23 March 2022 – Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada paid a 3-days official visit to Senegal, focused on vaccination efforts against COVID-19, economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian development programming in the country.

UNICEF seized this opportunity to facilitate a series of meetings and field-visits of UNICEF-supported and Canada-funded programmes on the ground.

Clément Tardif
Meeting with representatives from World Bank, USAID, Institut Pasteur, WHO and UNICEF, on how together to increase vaccination rates in Senegal

In Senegal, Canada’s support has been pivotal to help UNICEF mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and families. Throughout the crisis, UNICEF has been working closely with the Government and its partners to step up the response and prevent further proliferation of the COVID-19 virus.

As well as leading the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccine, UNICEF, together with partners, is helping the country strengthen its cold and supply chains, training health workers and working with communities in addressing misinformation and building trust in vaccines and in the health systems that deliver lifesaving vaccines.

"We are working together to see how we can build more resilient health care systems that ensure that every person, every child has access to live-saving vaccines and medical interventions" Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan said, following a meeting he held with COVAX Partners, including UNICEF.  

Clément Tardif
Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan visited the Senegal Health Emergency Operations Centre in Dakar, which supports the prevention and detection of COVID-19 and the response to it and other priority diseases.

Senegal is among the first countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines doses via the COVAX Facility. To date, Canada has made available to COVAX the equivalent of more than 100 million doses globally, including more than 14.2 million doses deemed surplus from Canada’s domestic procurements. Canada’s financial contributions to COVAX have supported the procurement of approximately 87 million vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.

"Thanks to the support of the Government of Canada, we have supported COVID-19 vaccination and reinforced capacities to deliver essential services for children such as health, nutrition, education, protection and water, hygiene and sanitation, safely" says Silvia Danailov, UNICEF Representative in Senegal.

Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan also visited an elementary school in the disadvantaged suburbs of Dakar, to see first-hand how the pandemic has impacted on children’s education and how UNICEF is offering alternatives and supporting the Government to overcome what is assimilated now as a learning crisis. The school visited in Pikine offers catch-up classes and accelerated learning programmes to out-of-school children, many of whom could not enroll or dropped out due to the pandemic.

Clément Tardif
The school of Pikine offers catch-up classes for children who have had miss school due to the pandemic.

"At the oldest school in Pikine, I was able to meet with kids who are restored in their right to education thanks to Canada’s partnership with UNICEF. Every child deserves an opportunity to develop to his full potential and to share his gifts with the world, and we're working to support that. By working jointly with partners like UNICEF, we are able to support a more inclusive world” he said.

In Senegal, the COVID-19 pandemic and national school closures temporarily disrupted the education of 3.5 million learners, in addition to the 1.5 million children already out of school. UNICEF, as the lead coordinating agency for the Development Partners Thematic Group for Education, has been supporting the Ministry of Education to formulate and implement the COVID-19 Education Sector Response Plan, ensuring that learning never stops and that no child is left behind.

Strong development partners, such as Canada, have provided valuable technical and financial assistance on the ground to support the national response, with particular focus on out-of-school children and adolescents, especially girls, and remediation interventions to address learning loss in vulnerable pupils.

"Even before the pandemic, the most marginalized children were being left behind. Out-of-school children are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized children in society. They are the least likely to be able to read, write or do basic math, and are cut off from the safety net that schools provide, a situation which puts them at an increased risk of exploitation and exposes them to a lifetime cycle of poverty and deprivation" explained Ms. Danailov.  

UNICEF Senegal/2022/Fall
School visit in Pikine where he discussed with children, families, teachers and school authorities

Thanks to the financial contribution from the Canadian Government, UNICEF was able to extend learning opportunities to more than 27,000 out-of-school children in 2021 (twice more compared to the pre-COVID-19 era), mainly through the extension of accelerated learning and catch-up interventions modalities for children of primary school age and the deployment of innovative approaches including the implantation of alternative models focusing on the acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills for children accommodated in traditional Quranic schools.

Canada’s support also helped UNICEF implement distance learning for secondary school dropouts and accelerate skills development programmes to foster employability skills in youths with no prior qualifications. A strong protection component is also integrated in the education interventions, to prevent and respond to violence including sexual violence against children.

“We could not have achieved these results without the strong support of the Canada’s Government. Canada’s commitment and willingness to make Senegal a better place for children is exemplary” Ms. Danailov concluded. "We count on our partnerships, such as the one with the Canada Government, to assist in ensuring that children and young people are safer today and better off tomorrow, that all their rights are protected and fulfilled."