Child Poverty in The Gambia
Child poverty in the Gambia is a rampant issue throughout the country. While the smallest country in West Africa, the Gambia’s rising poverty and food insecurity cause significant concern for children’s future safety and health. Despite the attempts to encourage positive change, 48% of the 2.1 million people living in the Gambia live in poverty, and 10.3% of the children suffer from acute malnutrition, with a more significant number being food insecure.

COVID-19 and Poverty

Globally, COVID-19 has struck economies and the healthcare systems of every nation, regardless of size or wealth. Though COVID-19 indiscriminately targeted the world’s populations, the healthcare system’s integrity and economic power were essential in protecting and supporting a nation’s citizens. In August 2020, households with insufficient food intake rose to 22% from 20% in July 2020, with the World Food Programme (WFP) attributing those changes to the pandemic. COVID-19 has more than doubled the quarterly increase of acute malnutrition at 5.6%, impacting approximately 58,177 children.

On top of increasing food insecurity, COVID-19 causes an increase in child poverty in the Gambia as employment decreases and the nation’s food supply decreases. The combining factors in the past two years add to the previous instability in the Gambia that included high rates of poverty and malnutrition.

Child Labor and Abuse

In the Gambia, child labor is a common occurrence, and even child prostitution remains a significant issue within the country. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and the United Nations, minors’ commercial exploitation and trafficking in the Gambia contributes to the illegal sex tourism business. This form of labor is illegal while enforcement and allegations fail to eliminate the reoccurring allegations. Without a robust justice system and significant improvement in entrepreneurship in the Gambia, illegal and horrifying child abuse will likely continue with minimal justice for the victims.

Besides the concerning presence of child prostitution, children ages 5 to 14 are working at a rate of 22.6%, and children attending school while working are at 21.7%. Typical fields of child labor are farming, mining, scavenging or street begging. While the child labor forms are nowhere near the complete list of potential labor fields, the necessity and use of children in the positions reflect the high rates of child poverty in the Gambia.

Education and Poverty

As with any nation, there is a direct association between poverty and education, especially with commonplace child labor. Although there have been slight improvements in education, such as 78% enrollment in primary schools, retention remains a significant issue for Gambian children. Of the 65.5% of students that complete primary school education, only 45.8% enter a lower secondary school and only 29.2% reach an upper secondary school education. The primary concern is approximately 20% of school-age children never enter the education system, reflecting a significant piece of the population unable to reach full economic potential.

Education is an essential aspect of youth in many emerging economies, as it allows individuals to enter specific and unique aspects of the global market. Without education, it can be challenging to improve socioeconomic status or advance development within one’s country. The combined rates of child education and child labor reflect the loss in economic potential and the inability to decrease poverty in the Gambia internally. Child poverty in the Gambia will continue without increasing the assistance to build up the education system and enforce ratified child labor laws. The factors of food insecurity, child poverty and weak systems to combat social issues contribute to the estimation that Gambian children only reach 40% of their full potential.

Looking Ahead

In an attempt to reduce child poverty in the Gambia, NGOs are providing supplies and monetary support to ensure safety, health and education. Child Aid Gambia is one organization that is supporting children, with multiple programs, including Bakoteh Rubbish Dump or Feeding Programmes. The Bakoteh Rubbish Dump spans over one kilometer in each direction and sits in the district of the busy township Serekunda. This dump is one of the largest and most toxic in the Gambia and Child Aid Gambia found children between 4 years old and older scavenging for metal and scraps to sell in the location. The Bakoteh Rubbish Dump Program works to reintegrate the children scavenging the dump back into local schools to ensure their education.

With the high rates of food scarcity, the Feeding Programmes assist the poorest communities by providing high-quality food for families and those suffering from malnutrition, especially with shorter rainy seasons in recent years causing massive drought. The care packages act as lifelines for communities experiencing drought or economic losses stagnating development. Without organizations such as Child Aid Gambia, there would be higher food insecurity and poverty levels throughout the nation. To end child poverty in the Gambia, NGOs and government organizations need to increase support for systemic change for education and ground-level support for food-insecure and impoverished children.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr


The Gambia is a small, strangely shaped country in West Africa where 48% of the 2.1 million residents live in poverty. Aside from issues of food security, malnutrition and other poverty-related issues, The Gambia struggles with human trafficking.  

Human Trafficking in The Gambia   

Societal barriers, including poverty, stigma and a lack of awareness, fuel underreported cases of human trafficking in The Gambia, said U.N. Human Rights Expert Maud De Boer-Buquicchio. Further, most child sexual exploitation occurs in the poorest areas, according to the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

Because the government has no formal witness protection policy and keeping victims’ identities confidential is not a priority, victims decide not to seek justice. In fact, 2020 marked the government’s third consecutive year to not convict any traffickers. However, the government did identify 12 victims, a notable increase from the four identifications during the prior reporting period. Allegations that police officers requested bribes to register trafficking complaints fostered distrust among victims.

TIP Report on The Gambia: “Moderate Advancement”

The U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of 2020  placed The Gambia on the Tier 2 Watchlist. This means that although the government does not completely meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, it is making meaningful efforts toward that effort. Notably, in 2019, the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons (NAATIP) trained all border posts on human trafficking.  Specifically, it taught them how to identify victims. In addition, the Ministry of Justice successfully doubled the funding for the NAATIP, which allowed for additional education and training.

The Gambian government allotted 600,000-dalasi, equivalent to $11,760 USD, to victim assistance including Department of Social Welfare (DSW) shelters. These shelters provide basic services like shelter, medical assistance and basic counseling for trafficking victims, women and children. However, most of these shelters center around the capital Banjul, largely excluding people in rural areas.  

Child Exploitation and Trafficking in The Gambia

The Gambian Constitution explicitly ensures free compulsory education, yet the costs of books, uniforms and exams are unaffordable for some families. As a result, when children miss school to avoid unpaid school fees, their vulnerability to child labor increases. Also, legally, Gambian children can start an apprenticeship in the informal sector at 12 years old, which is four years before their compulsory education ends. This increases their vulnerability to child labor and encourages them to not complete school. That is partially why when The United States Department of Labor (DOL) released the 2019 edition of its Annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor Report (TDA Report), it noted that while there is an improvement, “children in The Gambia still engage in the worst forms of child labor.”  

Success and Suggestions for The Gambia

The Gambia continues to push back against human trafficking with key plans addressing these problems. The NAATIP organized a march to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and coordinated school outreach to schools.  Also, the Ministry of Education incentivized Quranic teachers to educate students about trafficking and to encourage them not to beg. Third, The Gambia entered into a memorandum of understanding with The United Arab Emirates (UAE) to protect Gambians working in the UAE.

The Gambia has made some progress in fighting human trafficking. First, it advanced to the Tier 2 Watchlist of the U.S. State Department’s TIP Report. Also, it made “moderate advancement” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s TDA Report. As the U.N.’s De Boer-Buquicchio summarizes, “The Gambia has come a long way to put in place impressive laws, policies and child protection structures. Their strict and uncompromising enforcement is key in delivering results and achieving societal changes children deserve.”

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fishmeal Factories in The Gambia
Aquaculture is a unique practice comprising the farming of aquatic animals and plants to produce food and assist endangered species. Aquaculture is currently the fastest-growing tool of global food production. It creates job opportunities for Asian women and releases fewer carbon emissions than beef and pork agriculture. Aquaculture is viewed as a sustainable solution to the overexploitation of fish species such as tuna, which are overfished for human consumption. However, in an effort to meet the rapidly growing demand for seafood around the world, the current system of aquaculture is actually decreasing The Gambia’s food security. Since feeding farmed fish leads to overexploitation of different, smaller fish species, the solution to fixing fishmeal factories in The Gambia is underway.

Fishmeal Factories in The Gambia

Fish farmed for human consumption, such as tuna, tilapia and salmon are fed a protein-rich powder supplement called fishmeal. About 25% of all wild fish caught globally end up as fishmeal. Bonga and sardinella fish, herbaceous species that Africans depend on for 50%-70% of their protein, are the primary constituents of fishmeal. Foreign-owned fishmeal factories in The Gambia capture large quantities of bonga and sardinella fish to cook and grind into the coarse golden powder known as fishmeal.

China is currently the world’s largest producer of farmed fish, supplying the U.S. with the majority of its seafood. More than 50 foreign-owned fishmeal factories currently exist along Africa’s coast in The Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. China owns the vast majority of these factories. One factory alone can produce an average of 600,000 kg of fishmeal per day, requiring 7,500 tons of fish per year.

The United States, Asia, China and Europe all import fishmeal from The Gambia. This high reliance on trade hurts the locals, who depend on this fish as a source of food and income. As a result, some have called the industry’s fish-in, fish-out ratio (FIFO) – the total weight of forage fish compared to the total produced mass of farmed fish – unsustainable.

Effect on Food Security and Livelihoods

Fishmeal factories in The Gambia are developing a monopoly on bonga and sardinella fish. Local fishermen are unable to compete with commercial fishing vessels and therefore return to shore with fewer and fewer catches. The women who buy fish to dry and sell are likewise receiving less supply. Younger fishermen have also refused to sell women their products as fishmeal factories can pay in advance and buy fish in bulk.

Fishmeal factories in The Gambia are taking away the food security of African fish traders. Moreover, herbaceous fish support incredible biodiversity. With over-fishing, extinction can destabilize the entire marine ecosystem. Populations of larger fish species, on which Gambians also depend for sustenance, may then begin to collapse as well. As aquaculture businesses in developed nations are destabilizing The Gambia’s food security, they simultaneously profit from overexploitation.

Impact on Tourism

The Gambia’s tourism industry accounts for the majority of its employment opportunities and foreign exchange profit. Water pollution, smoke emissions and the acrid stench of rotting meat which the fishmeal factories in The Gambia emit are already affecting the industry. Coastal areas in The Gambia tend to attract tourists with recreational activities and ecotourism. Overfishing can decrease the biodiversity of Africa’s marine environment, specifically regarding bird and plant life. Golden Lead, a Chinese fish-processing plant, has already caused the extinction of a Gambian wildlife reserve.

Yet, fishmeal factories in The Gambia continue to install waste pipes that pollute African waters. Aquaculture’s goal was to offer a more sustainable alternative to marine fishing in the hopes that this practice would meet the growing demand for fish while allowing overexploited fish populations to replenish themselves. However, these effects are currently happening at the expense of Africa’s marine ecosystem, food security and the locals’ livelihood.

A Developing Solution

Researchers have identified multiple alternatives to fishmeal factories in The Gambia. Their goal is to make aquaculture truly sustainable. Fish-free feeds such as seaweed, cassava waste, soldier-fly larvae, viruses and bacteria proteins and even human sewage could become the norm if their cost-effectiveness is increased.

Algae-based aquafeeds in particular are very promising alternatives. With a high feed conversion ratio and the feeding of algae to tilapia and salmon, this solution can have promising results. Multiple companies have made breakthroughs in algae-based aquafeeds in recent years and the cost comparison to fishmeal is improving. Aquaculture can become a sustainable method of seafood production if it adopts algae-based feeds.

– Serah-Marie Maharaj
Photo: Flickr

poverty conditions in The GambiaThe Gambia is a West African country on the Atlantic coast. In 2019, the Human Development Index ranked The Gambia as 174 out of 189 countries. Despite the progress displayed in recent years, particularly in primary education, issues such as food shortages, malnutrition and poverty have only worsened. Roughly 48% of the population live in poverty conditions in The Gambia.

The Gambia’s Economy

Peanut farming and processing remain the most significant industries in the country. The peanut crop is sold to The Gambia Groundnut Corporation. This company assigns the prices for the season in advance, pays the farmers and producers and then sells the product overseas. Once the peanuts are deshelled, they are pressed into oil at pressing mills. The leftover residue is used to make cattle cake.

As the tourism industry grows in size, the construction industry has grown in tandem. Other small industries branch off into selling and manufacturing food products, beverages, footwear, woods and textiles. But as one might expect, this dependence on agriculture limits The Gambia’s ability to make significant headway in advancing economic stability and infrastructure. The situation is worsened by the successive shocks of droughts and floods causing widespread damage, suffering and loss of life. These unyielding weather patterns and weak food production systems caused food insecurity to slowly rise over the past few years.

Housing and Employment

In general, most village houses consist of circular mud huts with thatched roofs. On rare occasions, they build several single-story concrete buildings. The location of homes in a particular community plays a large role in high levels of poverty, as well as with economic and social exclusion. The poor are more likely to live in larger polygamous family units, have more dependent children and live without electricity.

Informal jobs abound. The lack of off-farm labor opportunities in rural areas results in underemployment and outmigration, especially among women and youth. Also, The Gambia’s population is increasing at an incredibly fast rate. This speed is far outpacing the housing supply and the rate at which homes can be built. As a consequence, both villages and larger towns experience overcrowding populations. These conditions contribute to the development of slums in larger communities and poverty conditions in The Gambia.

Healthcare

Despite improvements made since The Gambia achieved independence, the overall state of national health is very poor. Inadequate sanitation directly causes most cases of illness. About one-third of people do not have access to safe drinking water. Malaria poses the most significant health threat, while other tuberculosis and various parasitic diseases are also highly prevalent health issues.

Even though The Gambia has a lower number of HIV/AIDS cases than many other African nations, it increased among younger women during the 2000s. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate in The Gambia is one of the highest in all of Africa, only made worse by the nation’s very young population. About two-thirds of all citizens of The Gambia are under 30 years old. A long-standing shortage of healthcare workers in The Gambia adversely affects the staffing of medical facilities, particularly in rural areas. To address this problem, the government established a medical school to train its doctors and implemented a series of healthcare strategies.

A Brighter Future

The Gambia’s environment, extreme reliance on agriculture and general lack of everyday necessities such as medical care places its citizens in poverty levels that are difficult to escape. But thankfully, hope exists in the many organizations that are working tirelessly to spread awareness and donate money and resources to The Gambia. One prime example is ActionAid Gambia, a nonprofit charity that focuses on achieving social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication. Founded in 1972, the organization works to promote sustainable agriculture, improve the quality of public education for all children, advocate for women to receive economic alternatives and have control of their reproductive health rights and provide support towards eradicating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Over time and through many people’s efforts, it is possible to speed up the process of development to help decrease poverty conditions in The Gambia.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in the Gambia
The Gambia, a country half the size of New Jersey and located in West Africa, is home to 1 million women. The country has a secular constitution and its legal system uses English common law and some aspects of Sharia Law. Under this legal system, women rarely own property. Moreover, they frequently face obstacles in education access and their prenatal/postpartum care is poor, resulting in high maternal mortality rates. Here is some information about women’s rights in The Gambia and efforts to improve them.

Injustices Gambian Women Face

In terms of education access and financial freedom, women’s rights in The Gambia are not equitable. Only 47% of Gambian women are literate in comparison to 64% of men, so most women are at a disadvantage from the start. Additionally, 26% of Gambian girls marry before they turn 18, which allows minimal time to gain pre-marriage financial independence. In 2009, 80% of women worked in the agriculture sector, but only 30% received cash earnings in comparison to 43% of men. Under the customary practice, instead of owning the land they cultivate, women borrow it from their husbands. The women who own property cannot receive more than one-third of the estate, as Sharia Law permits. This is a challenge because most banks will not grant credit unless the applicant owns land which puts women in a difficult situation.

Level The Law Campaign

In 2018, Gambian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, attended the Global Citizen Festival in New York to share The Gambia’s commitment to the Level The Law Campaign. Two years prior, Global Citizen started the campaign to outlaw discrimination against females and gender-based violence by 2030. In response to more than 10,000 Global Citizen tweets, Tambadou renewed the commitment to protecting women’s rights in The Gambia, which vows to repeal all laws that promote gender-based violence, prevent equal political participation and hinder reproductive health.

A statement by Tambadou said that UNICEF organized training for Gambian Law Enforcement Agencies on legislation about child marriage. Also, to demonstrate The Gambia’s commitment to include women in justice systems, half of the appointees to the superior Courts of The Gambia are women. Additionally, four of the seven Court of Appeal judges are women, with a woman serving as president. Finally, Gambia is drafting a new Constitution that ensures more gender-responsive legislation.

New Laws for an Equitable Future

Social justice mobility did not start there. The Women’s Act, passed in 2010, protects women’s rights under the Constitution, which includes human rights protection, the right to health, protection against discrimination, marriage consent and special measures supporting women (the government and private institutions must work towards gender equality). It also ensures that girls who are married or have children can stay in school, protecting them from getting expelled. In 2015, the National Assembly amended the Act to include the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). However, the Act does not regulate certain rights for Muslim women such as child custody, widow inheritance and divorce. These remain subject to Sharia Law.

The Sexual Offenses Act, passed in 2013, amends the procedure of rape trial and other sexual offenses. Meanwhile, the Domestic Violence Act, passed in the same year, protects domestic violence survivors.

Before these laws passed, sexual harassment and Female Genital Mutilation were legal. FGM is a common practice in The Gambia that results in devastating physical and psychological consequences. Fortunately, it is on the decline, although about 75% of women aged 15-49 and 50% of girls under age 15 have undergone it. Although the Women’s Act outlaws discrimination in reproductive health services, women still lack access to vital reproductive resources.

There is a long road ahead to gender equity. Luckily, with more female representation in the public sphere, women’s rights in The Gambia are on the rise. Gambian women bring a new perspective to the table, one that serves in their best interest.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in The Gambia
The Gambia is a growing country with high income inequality and high poverty rates. The poverty rate in rural communities is 70%, while in urban communities it is only 32%. These high poverty rates negatively impact access to healthcare, making healthcare in The Gambia a significant concern. Without access, many people in The Gambia face communicable diseases without the ability to receive proper treatment. This lack of access to healthcare and the impact of communicable diseases have been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of COVID-19. However, organizations are stepping in to help The Gambia improve its healthcare system. Here are five facts about healthcare in The Gambia during COVID-19.

5 Facts About Healthcare in The Gambia During COVID-19

  1. The Gambia announced its first COVID-19 case on Mar. 17. The government responded by preparing the people for travel restrictions, closing schools and suspending public gatherings. The Ministry of Health began providing resources via social media. On Facebook, the number of cases is updated every day. It provides information on how to wear a mask, social distancing and how to reach the coronavirus hotline.
  2. The Gambia received outside support. This happened on Mar. 28, a little more than a week after announcing its first case. The Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations in China stepped in to help not only The Gambia, but 54 countries in Africa. The foundations donated 20, 000 test kits, 1000, 000 masks, 740 sets of protective clothing and 1000 sets of protective shields.
  3. COVID-19 could exacerbate the situation for those already living in, or close to, poverty. About 48.6% of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line. This means that many people are vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, specifically economically. At the same time, it could also cause people who have made economic advances to move back into poverty. Since poverty negatively impacts access to healthcare, this could mean more of The Gambia’s population is unable to receive the treatment they need.
  4. The World Bank is stepping in. Since the pandemic started, The World Bank has been sending funding to provide support for many countries in need. The bank’s funding in The Gambia will enhance COVID-19 case detection and tracking. It will also improve treatment centers and strengthen disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity.
  5. The government has been working to improve healthcare. The Gambia National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2020 (NHSSP) guides healthcare in the nation. The plan’s goal is to reduce inequalities in health care services and reverse the downward trend in health-related outcome indicators. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) conducts annual reviews of the plan to see where improvements still need to be made. The NHSSP is still in effect during COVID-19; however, it will wrap up at the end of 2020. Moving forward, a new plan is needed to ensure a continued focus on improving access to healthcare in The Gambia.

 

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing problems with healthcare in The Gambia by making those in poverty, or who have just escaped it, more vulnerable. As a result, many organizations have stepped in to help The Gambia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, these organizations as well as the government must continue to make improving healthcare a priority.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the Gambia
The Gambia is a country located in Western Africa near the country of Senegal. Over the past 5 years, The Gambia has been dealing with an increase in food insecurity. This increase is largely due to the 2018 drought which caused a decrease in food production. In 2019, The Gambia only produced 50% of the food supply needed, leaving many to go hungry. As food insecurity continues to rise, from 5% to 8% in recent years, many organizations are stepping in to help decrease hunger in The Gambia.  

The Fight Against Hunger in The Gambia

The World Food Programme (WFP) is an organization that has been committed to helping individuals in The Gambia since 1970. WFP has created a campaign designed to bringing food to households and schools in The Gambia. It is estimated that 10,000 households have been affected by hunger. The main focus is to send money and food to certain areas in The Gambia, specifically households that may need more support during the food crisis. More vulnerable populations include women, persons with disabilities and people suffering from diseases such as HIV. Through the WFP’s school program, the organization has helped 115,000 children throughout primary and pre-schools.

UNICEF, WFP, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) worked with The Gambia’s government in 2017 to launch the ‘Post-Crisis Response to Food and Nutrition Insecurity in The Gambia.’ The program aims to help decrease hunger in The Gambia. Not only will it help to fund and bring food to the country, but it also aims to help farmers produce sustainable agriculture.

Malnutrition in The Gambia

Malnutrition largely affects individuals in rural areas of The Gambia. Underfunding, lack of resources, such as foods high in vitamins, and limited knowledge of nutrition are all factors in the problem of malnutrition. Though malnutrition in children has decreased from 23% in 2010 to 19% in 2018, there is still more work to be done. In 2016 UNICEF worked closely with The Gambia’s government to help address malnutrition. UNICEF is urging the officials to have better funding within the healthcare system in regard to nutrition.

Small Victories

The ‘Post-Crisis Response to Food and Nutrition Insecurity in The Gambia’ was also able to donate nearly 3,000 metric tons of nutritious foods, in the hopes of bringing down malnutrition rates. The European Commission has also funded additional programs that not only help supply nutritional food resources, but also educational promotions about nutrition as it relates to infant and child feeding. These programs help to bring resources to rural areas of The Gambia while also informing youth about how to address the issues of hunger and malnutrition.

Over the past few years, The Gambia has been facing increased food insecurity. Providing resources to the public on malnutrition and hunger is more important than ever, as 48% of Gambians are still living in poverty. Programs such as the ones organized by UNICEF and WFP are working to decrease hunger in the coming years. 

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Gambia’s Solar Park
In 2019, the Gambian government announced that it would construct a solar park, the first 150 MWH utility-scale park in the nation. Apart from the government’s greater initiative to improve the Gambia’s energy reliability and affordability, the government plans to launch the solar park in two phases: an 80 MWH unit set for 2021 and a 70 MWH unit set for 2025.

The Background

Prior to national elections in 2016, the Gambian government struggled with a decreasing GDP, poor macroeconomic performance and high liabilities from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and other state-owned enterprises. As cited in a 2018 World Bank report, the governing bodies of SOE’s such as NAWEC were highly inefficient and caused internal dysfunction under President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership. The government’s inconsistent budget support to NAWEC resulted in a “fiscal drain on public resources” and inadequate energy supply.

Therefore, as apart of the region’s master plan to increase energy availability to the public, the current Gambian administration will conduct a study measuring the feasibility of implementing a 150 MWH solar park. The park will connect to a substation in Soma, The Gambia, which is a grid infrastructure that should increase electricity access in the nation by 60 percent. The feasibility study will have three primary objectives:

  1. To select the land for the solar park.
  2. To finalize solar power station details.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Dispatch Center.

The Process

In selecting land for The Gambia’s solar park, consultants will choose a land size of around 250 Hectares within a 20 km perimeter from the Soma substation. They will conduct studies that measure the potential constraint to connect the substation to the park. Once consultants choose an ideal site, they will proceed to finalize aspects of the power station. The power station will produce shifts in solar energy for two to three hours toward the peak of each evening. Through a detailed study, consultants will need to confirm the phases required for the installation of the park and proceed to undertake a diagnosis for the creation of a dispatch center. Through a diagnosis, consultants will be able to construct an “evaluation of required investments in capacity building (research, training), and modernization of the network (hardware equipment, software, smart grid technology, etc.).”

The government plans to construct the park not only to provide further electricity to The Gambia’s citizens but to also reduce the electricity costs for SOEs and the government. The government plans to remove the system of auction organized with public-private partnerships (private banks, etc.) as a means to reduce the cost of electricity for SOEs and citizens.

As the first of its kind, The Gambia’s solar park will increase Gambians’ access to electricity by 25 percent. The park will serve as one of the administration’s first steps in transforming the nation into a hub for sustainable energy.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in the Gambia

Maternal health continues to be a concern in developing countries around the world. Although overall maternal mortality decreased by 44 percent from 1990 to 2015, many nations still have a long way to go if the goal of fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births is to be reached by 2030. Of note, despite improvements, the maternal mortality in The Gambia remains one of the highest in the world, with 706 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal mortality is a reflection of the disparities between the rich and the poor, with 94 percent of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries. The fact that 50 percent of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line contributes to the high rates of maternal mortality in the nation.

A majority of the complications that lead to maternal deaths are preventable or treatable. However, either because the mother is giving birth outside of a health care facility or due to a lack of supplies or expertise, the necessary care is not always provided.

The main causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure and delivery complications. Other deaths are caused by malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

Contributing Factors

In The Gambia, the national maternal mortality ratio decreased by 46 percent between 1995 and 2015. This can, in part, be attributed to an increase in antenatal care coverage, as 86.2 percent of Gambian women now receive antenatal care from a skilled health professional.

For deliveries, however, only 57.2 percent take place in the presence of a skilled health professional. Most women deliver at home with a traditional birth attendant; the main barriers to giving birth in a health care facility being insufficient time to travel and lack of transportation.

Maternal health in The Gambia is further complicated by social and cultural factors that contribute to pregnancy complications and the low percentage of women who give birth at a health facility or with a health professional. A study done in rural Gambia found that there were four interrelated factors that impacted maternal health:

  • Pregnant women’s heavy workload
  • The gendered division of labor
  • Women’s inferior status in the household
  • Limited access to and utilization of health care

Women in rural Gambia generally work alongside their husbands on farms, a fact that does not change even with pregnancy. Gambian women described being physically and emotionally exhausted from physical labor in the field and the house, noting that they did not get sufficient rest at any point during their pregnancy.

This is connected to the way labor is divided between men and women, as women often work longer hours than their husbands, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. Social practices prevent men from doing certain household chores while their wives are pregnant to allow them to get more rest, which contributes to poor maternal health in The Gambia.

The activities that women continue to perform can also have negative impacts. Women noted that they had to fetch and carry water from long distances, pick groundnuts and cook with firewood, all of which are health risks for pregnant women.

Additionally, women have less control than their husbands, largely because they are economically dependent on them. Despite doing equal work in the field and more work in the house, women receive no financial benefits. This keeps them from becoming economically independent and forces them to rely on their husbands, giving their husbands more power.

As a result, many women who wanted to stop working could not unless their husbands allowed it. They also could not make certain decisions, including where to give birth, without the oversight of their husbands, contributing to a lack of utilization of health care facilities. As women are often required to work up until they give birth, their workload prevents them from being able to travel to a health care facility in time for delivery.

Improving maternal health in The Gambia, therefore, is connected to women’s autonomy. In addition to improving access to health care facilities and ensuring adequate supplies are available, work needs to be done to ensure that families are educated about the dangers of working during pregnancy and that women have the ability to make decisions for themselves about where to give birth.

Improvement Efforts

Other efforts are also important to decreasing maternal mortality in The Gambia. Within the last decade, the Horizons Trust Gambia and The Gambian Ministry of Health partnered with an organization called Soapbox to launch the Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative aimed at reducing infections from childbirth.

One of the main projects of this initiative is the distribution of Clean Birth Kits, which include soap, a clean blade and a clean plastic sheet to help ensure that expectant mothers have sanitary materials regardless of whether they are giving birth at a hospital or at home.

The Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative also worked to create a manual for cleanliness standards at health care facilities in The Gambia, adapting the manual to work with the local context of each hospital. The program also supported the training of facility staff to ensure that they knew how to adequately clean to prevent infections and other health complications.

These important efforts need to be combined with others to form a holistic approach to improving maternal health in The Gambia. Only coordinated efforts that are adapted to cultural and social contexts will be successful in significantly reducing maternal mortality in the nation.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

 

Credit Access in The Gambia
Credit access in The Gambia is supported by the efforts of many different financial aid organizations. The credit and financial system as a whole is the focus of organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. Other programs, such as the World Bank, are working on several projects to improve the financial situation of The Gambia overall.

To aid in this goal, the World Bank has recently approved the Integrated Financial Management Information System Project AF2 and the Third Education Project – Additional Financing. The need for financial assistance in The Gambia is widely recognized and is something that these organizations are looking to address.

The International Monetary Fund provides funding to countries it approves for financial assistance based on economic need. According to the organization, 198 countries across the world receive assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Progress in Credit Access in The Gambia

Credit access in the Gambia, as with credit access in any country, is improved when the country has more economic and financial resources. Not only are people able to take part in an economy that is healthier and more prosperous, but the government is able to put these funds toward credit and has more options as far as what to support or rebuild with the financial assistance that it receives.

There are several banks in The Gambia as well as organizations that provide credit within the country. There are also a number of organizations that allow people to donate to The Gambia that are easily accessible. For example, Aid for Africa lists several organizations that allow donations.

Although not all of the donations listed for The Gambia appear to be directly linked to assisting the country with its credit issues, indirect assistance such as donating to help children get textbooks can take citizens’ focus off of providing for their educational or everyday needs and allow them to focus more on other investments.

Citizens and Travelers’ Access to Personal Funds

Although the financial situation and credit access in The Gambia are still being improved, travelers wishing to access their own credit will not be limited when traveling through the country. According to AccessGambia, there are several banks that provide credit access for travelers visiting The Gambia. Although not all are accessible, those who are traveling can learn about the credit cards that will be most effective. These organizations are available for citizens to use as well.

As organizations continue to improve and support the economy of The Gambia and the financial situations of other countries, the world’s economy will be improved. With more participation in credit organizations and larger markets, people are able to network and access opportunities that they might otherwise not be able to access. It is important to support credit access and finance in other countries because it allows people to be more autonomous, to provide for their basic needs and to pursue personal goals that would otherwise not be available to them. These are all important steps in alleviating poverty, both in The Gambia and around the world.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr