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On the dusty sand roads that lead to remote villages, goats stand on their hind legs to eat the only vegetation in sight — thorny acacia trees.

The lucky villagers have relatives working in the capital of Dakar or in Europe. But even work there is harder to find; a job may only last a few months, so the amount trickling back to these rural communities has decreased considerably.

In better times, there was a vegetable garden in Goudoude Diobe, with cabbage and eggplants for a community of nearly 1,300 people. Families grew enough millet, sorghum and corn to feed the village and its 250 children.

Now most here, even the breast-feeding mothers, eat only a bowl of rice once a day. If they are lucky, it is cooked with oil.

What should have been dinnertime already has passed, and now Kadja Dembel Ba calculates that she needs to keep her children busy for at least two more hours.

Today she was lucky. She walked several hours to lug some rice back from the nearby town to her village, Fass, for her seven children.

But as she looks at her 3-year-old son Yaya Feyni, she knows it’s not enough.

While other boys play outside, he lies on a bed behind his mother, listless and pale. Yaya has always been small compared to his brothers, she says, and now he is sick and won’t eat anything.

She tends to him while her 1-year-old son squirms in her lap and her 5- and 7-year-olds hover nearby.