A long way from Hogwarts: Bonnie Wright in West Africa

Emergencies article written on the 06 Aug 2012

Photo: Harry Borden/Oxfam

Chances are you know her as Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, but there’s more to actress Bonnie Wright than magic and monsters.

Bonnie is also an Oxfam Ambassador, and recently she visited Senegal with us to see firsthand how the food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa is affecting vulnerable communities, and to learn about what Oxfam’s doing to support them.

The video above shows Bonnie meeting Oxfam staff and local families in the Kedougou region of Southern Senegal. Initially surprised that a country facing such severe food shortages could be so green, she said: “When I arrived … it was hard to see that this was a country where thousands of people are suffering from extreme hunger … everywhere was green and lush. I quickly learnt however that this green was hiding the reality, a deep seated hunger that was so present in the lives of the families I spoke to”.

Bonnie Wright chatting with Dieynasa Ba. Photo: Harry Borden/Oxfam

Bonnie Wright chatting with Dieynasa Ba. Photo: Harry Borden/Oxfam

One of the people Bonnie met was mother-of-six Dieynasa Ba (35). As the lean season approaches, Dieynasa is worried about how she’ll feed her family. Her village relies on agriculture and when bad weather ruins their crops, they have no food to survive.

“We are farmers, only farmers. We rely on agriculture, without this we have no food to survive. Last year we didn’t have anything. It was really bad, things were really tight,” she explains. Whereas her family used to eat three meals a day, now they’re surviving on just one meal. One of her sons rides his bike 7km to school and back again every day — needless to say, she wonders how long he can keep this up on an empty stomach.

“We are supposed to be able to provide our children with three meals a day but since the harvest we can only provide one meal. You realise that it’s very difficult but I try to keep food mainly for the children.”

Because Dieynasa doesn’t have a job or source of income, her husband has had to move away in order to make money for the family. “Your husband can’t do anything if you don’t have a job. My husband had to go off to find work and then come back at night, sometimes with nothing. He is the chief of the family and it is difficult for him not to be able to provide for us, he feels embarrassed to see his family hungry.”

It’s a difficult situation for everyone affected, but with your support, families like Dieynasa’s can take the first steps to getting their lives back on track. As Bonnie says: “I hope that with public support, Oxfam can continue to help people in these moments and tackle the underlying causes of the crisis to help prevent them happening again.”

Find out more

Read about Oxfam’s emergency response in West Africa
Sign our global petition calling for the world’s leaders to act now in support of the millions of affected people across the region
Read more about Bonnie’s trip to Senegal