DAKAR – Even in the best of times, many Muslims in West Africa scramble to afford a sheep to slaughter on Eid al-Adha, a display of faith that often costs as much as a month's income.
Now COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on people's budgets from Senegal to Nigeria to Ivory Coast, putting an important religious tradition just beyond financial reach. Even those who can afford an animal are getting a smaller one this year.
“The situation is really complicated by the coronavirus — it’s a tough market," said Oumar Maiga, a livestock trader in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city. "People are not coming in the way they usually would. We are in a situation we’ve never seen in other years.”
In Senegal's capital, Dakar, thousands of sheep oblivious to their fate stood on display outside the Léopold Senghor stadium. With just 48 hours to go before the holiday expected Friday, Abdou Karim Seck struggled to find a deal.
“My budget is 120,000 CFA ($206), and the sheep I’m being offered at this price are too small,” he said. His sales as a trader have been falling for nearly three months now. “They wouldn't even cost 80,000 CFA ($137) in normal times.”
During Eid al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, Muslims commemorate the prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith by slaughtering livestock and animals and distributing the meat to the poor.
It's also a time when families gather to prepare and enjoy a large feast, and many typically shell out for new outfits for the whole family. Now there is less money for those luxuries, and for the hawkers who sell fancy carving knife sets to drivers stuck in traffic. Business also has been slow for the vendors selling barbecue grills by roadsides.
Senegal's Livestock Minister Samba Ndiobène Ka insists there is not a problem with supply, saying the country has more than the estimated 803,000 animals needed.