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CRS in Senegal

Located on the most western point of the continent, Senegal is home to many cultures and peoples. It experiences a stable democracy, a growing economy and a warm culture, which prides itself on its hospitality. Despite these attributes, Senegal continues to face major challenges towards achieving sustainable growth and development. Some of these barriers include high unemployment rates, limited opportunities for youth, poor infrastructure, a simmering separatist movement, and a population whose livelihoods are heavily affected by international food prices, cyclical droughts and a lack of resiliency to climate change. Low levels of education, gender inequality, poor governance, irregular agricultural yields, aggressive desertification, the prevalence of preventable diseases, and malnutrition compromise the country's ability to meet its basic needs, and secure a future for its most vulnerable populations. 


Cape Verde, also known as the Cabo Verde islands, lies 500 kilometers off the west coast of Africa and comprises 10 islands and five islets, all but three of which are mountainous. Although poor in natural resources, prone to drought and with little arable land, Cape Verde has achieved a reputation of political and economic stability. Cape Verde’s economy depends heavily on tourism. Development aid, foreign investments and remittances are other major contributors of overall GDP.

The first cases of the Zika virus on the African continent were detected in Cape Verde in 2015. Preventing the further spread of the epidemic triggered a global response, with CRS serving at the forefront. Through rapid emergency response programming, CRS successfully implemented prevention initiatives, set up identification and rapid response systems, and worked to help eliminate breeding sites in affected communities.

Cape Verde's population is 553,432 (2016 est.) with 150,000 people served. At 1,557 sq miles, it is approximately three quarters the size of Delaware.


CRS implemented its first activities in Cape Verde in 2016 in response to the Zika virus epidemic. In partnership with Caritas Caboverdiana and the Ministries of Health and Education, CRS carried out a six-month emergency response in the most affected areas of the southern island of Santiago.

Through a series of activities designed to raise awareness and encourage behavior change, CRS was able to reach a vast number of community members including farmers, pregnant women, children and other at risk groups. This initiative also strengthened general knowledge about the spread of vector-borne diseases and equipped communities to properly respond at the onset of symptoms. CRS is aspiring to continue to support communities of Cape Verde with health and development activities.


People Served: 3,507,672

Population: 14,668,522

Size: 75,955 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than South Dakota

CRS' History in Senegal

Catholic Relief Services has worked in Senegal for over 55 years. One of the first international NGOs to begin working in Senegal after it gained independence in 1960, CRS' long-term presence has allowed us to respond effectively to changing conditions within the country. With two regional offices and a central headquarters in Dakar, CRS Senegal also supports programming in The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. CRS supports vulnerable populations from all five countries through its work which responds to natural disasters, separatist violence, economic fluctuations, public health emergencies and malnutrition. With a strong focus on partnership and capacity building, CRS and its partners implement projects that yield immediate results and that are sustainable for years to come.

Our nutrition programming is centered on improving food securitynutrition, improved sanitation and hygiene practices, and resilience for those suffering from food crises and chronic vulnerability. Our projects include conservation agriculture, food-for-work, cash-for-work, unconditional cash transfers, agricultural input and livestock fairs, and community garden activities. We are also focusing on the nutritional and income needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and reducing child malnutrition through monitoring and community health care services.

Along with supporting livelihoods through nutrition programming, CRS is working to ensure that communities are protected when emergencies happen or disaster hits. Through community tailored projects, we are helping vulnerable households become more resilient to current and future disasters, such as insect invasions, floods, drought, public health epidemics and extreme price fluctuations of agricultural commodities. 

The health of a country is only as healthy as its people. This is why CRS Senegal has also prioritized supporting the Ministry of Health in strengthening the health system. We increase the quality of community health services by training community based volunteers in basic health care and healthy behaviors such as seeking medical care when necessary, recognizing, addressing and preventing  malnutrition, enrolling in universal health care,  child vaccination, malaria and TB prevention and treatment, and good hygiene and sanitation practices.

Healthcare, nutrition and resilience are linked to microfinance. CRS Senegal understands the critical role of microfinance in interventions. Through savings groups, financial education, value chain development, marketing, microenterprise training and ICT4D, we are committed to developing innovative initiatives to help households become financially secure.

We are also promoting peace by supporting communities in the Casamance area to resolve conflicts around natural resource management. We bring communities together through conflict mitigation and resolution training, gender integration activities, community connector projects, and savings and internal lending community (SILC) activities. 

Through innovation, partnership and humble service, we are dedicated to serving the people of Senegal and neighboring countries until communities are restored and high risk populations are guaranteed a thriving future.