With the steady decline of freshwater, accessing sanitary drinking water is an escalating global catastrophe. In West Africa, the Gambia faces significant challenges in sanitation and water quality. Water quality in Gambia is being affected due to expanding urban populations near water sources and discarding waste into waterways.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the primary environmental issue in Gambia is waste management, specifically in urban neighborhoods. In highly populated areas, unsustainable waste and landfill management create environmental hazards that affect the quality of drinking water. The exponential growth of Gambia’s urbanized regions and insufficient resources to support the subsequent waste has intensified water pollution.

The water quality in Gambia has decreased from the insufficient waste collection, the common disposal of trash from small industries and households and lacking appropriate disposal practices. Without proper surveillance methods, monitoring the quality of surface and groundwater has become a major challenge.

From 2002 to 2011, the government of Gambia invested approximately $1.7 million annually on “water-related infrastructure and programs.” The funds were primarily distributed between water supply and sanitation on large systems (61.4 percent) and agricultural water resources (21.3 percent).

The amount of reliable drinking water sources has risen 15 percent from 1992 to 2010 and continues to increase. In 2010, 15 percent of rural and eight percent of urban Gambians did not have access to sanitary drinking water. Nearly all of Gambia’s potable water must be drilled from underground. The surface water, which includes and is affected by the River Gambia and its tributaries, is incredibly saline and undrinkable. Groundwater sources supply potable water for urban areas, industry, tourism, livestock and irrigation watering.

Rural areas depend on the help of independent charities for access to potable water. The investment-based charity, Water for Africa, believes that the best help for a country’s infrastructure and prosperity begins with accessible, clean water. So far, it has primarily helped West African countries by using donations to find regions that have unreliable access or none at all. It has specifically helped two regions in the north and south of Gambia by identifying the villages, Bambara and Kuntair, as the best hubs for wells and funding their installation to improve the water quality in Gambia.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr


The Gambia, officially the Republic of the Gambia, is a country in West Africa almost entirely surrounded by Senegal. The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, home to just fewer than two million people, about half of whom live in poverty. Here are 10 facts about hunger in the Gambia.

10 Facts About Hunger in the Gambia

  1. Approximately one-tenth of the Gambia’s population is food-insecure, and nearly one in three Gambians are vulnerable to food insecurity.
  2. Food insecurity has led to high malnutrition rates. In 2015, 10.3 percent of the population was malnourished.
  3. Malnutrition in the Gambia has resulted in the stunting of growth in 24.9 percent of children.
  4. The country’s high poverty rate contributes to hunger. Nearly half — 48 percent of the population — live below the national poverty line.
  5. The population is growing exceptionally quickly. Since 2003, the population has grown by 36 percent, to almost two million people.
  6. The Gambia is classified as a food-deficit, low-income country. It ranked 175 out of 188 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index.
  7. Due to the Gambia’s climate, the country’s agriculture is particularly susceptible to damage from climate change, with extreme weather events and rising sea levels harming output.
  8. Food costs in the Gambia are increasing. Since domestic cereal production fulfills just 60 percent of demand, the population relies greatly on food imports. As a result, the retail price of imported rice has almost doubled within the past decade.
  9. Like many other impoverished countries, poverty in the Gambia is worse in rural areas. Approximately three-quarters of the rural population lives in poverty.
  10. Women in the country are also facing higher rates of poverty. Women in the Gambia make up more than 50 percent of the agricultural labor force and 70 percent of unskilled laborers. However, lack of access to new technology and land hurt their incomes.

Climate change and increasingly low agricultural output continue to worsen hunger in the country. However, providing the population with new technology to help them become more resilient to environmental changes could help reduce hunger in the Gambia.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr


Outlined in House Resolution 89, Gambia is noted to have dealt with a leader who did not meet international standards of promoting human rights. Throughout his 22-year rule, President Yahya Jammeh consistently governed without regard for minority groups or those who opposed his regime. Refugees have left Gambia in search of a life that is not susceptible to Jammeh’s authority. Here are 10 facts about Gambian refugees.

  1. The majority of Gambian refugees are young males. Hundreds have fled for Europe. Stories of Gambian refugees arriving in Italy or Spain reached remote villages through Facebook and texting.
  2. Making the grueling exodus from Africa has become easier over time. Smuggling networks have expanded due of deterioration in Libya, allowing Gambian refugees to escape through unsecured channels. Many Gambian refugees are fleeing possible forced servitude and sexual slavery.
  3. The country has become a hub for the African trade network operating human trafficking throughout several parts of Africa, including Senegal. Gambian refugees and those from other sub-Saharan nations hope to reach North Africa in order to eventually reach Europe.
  4. Gambian citizens were greatly impoverished under the regime of President Jammeh; only those within his sphere were able to accumulate any wealth. Those who were not as fortunate ended up earning $100 dollars a month. Refugees lived under extreme poverty.
  5. The government of Gambia did not respect the freedom of the media. Through criminal prosecutions and physical intimidation, censorship of journalism was carried out. Journalists were susceptible to cruel and degrading treatment by the government. A percentage of those escaping  Gambia were journalists.
  6. Conditions along smuggling routes are very unsafe. Boats capsizing or smugglers abandoning people along desert routes are a reality for many Gambian refugees.
  7. A growing number of refugees are literate, but unable to find work matching their skill set. This is similar to China in the ’60s and is a primary reason many refugees leave Gambia.
  8. A percentage of refugees were a part of the LGBT community. Jammeh sought to cultivate what the Washington Post called a “bizarre mythology around himself as a man who could cure AIDS and threatened to personally slit the throats of gay men.”
  9. Many of Gambia’s refugees were held as political prisoners, including officials of parties in opposition to the president.
  10. In the recent election, Jammeh lost to Adam Barrow. However, some are concerned about the political tensions resulting from that decision, so many are sending their children as refugees to Senegal.

With Adama Barrow now president of Gambia, the country can look forward to positive change. The region has been known for corruption and scandals and has failed to effectively represent its people. Gambian refugees were escaping the regime of a leader who did not operate a democratic nation. Their new government represents change in a positive direction.

Nick Katsos

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Gambia
The Gambia is a tiny nation, bounded by Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. The primary economic drivers in the country are tourism, agriculture and remittances from overseas. Between 2013 and 2016, it is estimated that real GDP per capita fell by 20 percent, suggesting an increase in poverty levels. The poor economy and recent political tensions are two main reasons why thousands of Gambians seek refuge elsewhere, hoping for a better life for themselves and their families.

 

Here are 10 facts about Gambian refugees:

 

  1. Around 45,000 people fled to neighboring Senegal after a contentious 2016 presidential election. Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who had led the country for 22 years following a military coup in 1994, was defeated by his opponent Adama Barrow. After initially accepting the outcome, Jammeh refused to step down and called for a new election. After Jammeh was exiled in January, many Gambians returned home from Senegal.
  2. Gambians currently account for more than seven percent of refugees making the deadly crossing over the Mediterranean to mainland Europe. Considering The Gambia has a population of fewer than two million, Gambians make up a disproportionate percentage of migrants arriving into Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 11,929 Gambians arrived in Greece and Italy in 2016.
  3. The method of attempting to get into Europe via the Mediterranean is colloquially known as the “Backway.” The flood of Gambians heading for Europe has become such a problem that the Gambian government has launched ad campaigns that attempt to dissuade would-be migrants with slogans such as, “Say No to the Backway.” In 2016, at least 5,000 migrants perished or went missing attempting to make the perilous crossing.
  4. Most Gambian refugees seeking asylum in Europe are between the ages of 14 and 34. According to Richard Danziger, IOM’s regional director for West and Central Africa, “The numbers are huge; I understand there are villages [in Gambia] with no young males left.”
  5. Most Gambian refugees are economic migrants. According to 2010 figures from the World Bank, the poverty rate in The Gambia was 48.4 percent. Over-reliance on tourism, agriculture and remittances have resulted in an undiversified economy that is vulnerable to external shocks and lacking opportunities for many Gambians.
  6. Instability in Libya has created an unguarded coastline in North Africa; smugglers are taking advantage and expanding their networks. Widespread violence and instability continue to plague Libya as the conflict continues after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
  7. Gambian refugees in Libya are at risk of exploitation in modern-day “slave markets.” The IOM reports hundreds of migrants — including Gambians — being kidnapped, sold and either extorted for more money or forced into labor.
  8. According to the World Bank, 20 percent of Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from remittances. Relatives of those who make it to Europe are able to build new homes with the remittances they receive. Their success is alluring for many and provides a powerful incentive for people to risk their lives for the chance of a better life for themselves and their families back home.
  9. According to Eurostat, the EU statistics organization, there were 14,735 first-time asylum applications from The Gambia in 2016 to the following countries: Italy, 8,850 (56 percent), Germany, 5,655 (36 percent), Austria, 230 (one percent).
  10. The EU set up the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa in 2015 in an attempt to address the migrant crisis. The Trust Fund is worth more than €2.6 billion and focuses on projects that endeavor to address the root causes of irregular migration. The Gambia is one of the countries eligible to receive this assistance.

President Adama Barrow has promised to try and create jobs in an effort to stem the tide of Gambians leaving via the “Backway.” Barrow will serve only three years because he is not able to stand in the next election, but there are hopes that he can initiate urgently needed reforms and help lay the foundations for economic growth and prosperity.

Michael Farquharson

Photo: Flickr

Politics in Gambia: Difficult Transition of Power Post Election
On December 1, President Yahya Jammeh lost his reelection campaign. Jammeh has been the figurehead for politics in the Gambia for 22 years. Since the election, Jammeh has gone from accepting the results to now challenging the results in the Gambian courts. So far the court has not been able to hear his appeal due to a number of absent judges on the deciding committee.

His challenger, Adama Barrow, is a former real estate agent that has never held political office. He plans to put a stop to government persecution and wants to focus on rebuilding the Gambian economy. He plans on investing in many industries that are needed but will focus largely on growth in Gambia’s technology sector.

Since Jammeh has assumed power through a 1994 coup, politics in the Gambia have been a dangerous business. Many Gambians are hopeful for the first time in 22 years. A number of exiled Gambians are reporting their optimism for the future and their intention to move back home. Many were exiled journalists who fled the country to avoid further torture and harassment by the Gambian government.

One such exiled man, Musa Saidykhan, was tortured with electroshocks, bayonets and chains for three weeks. He was accused of publishing a false story and having an affiliation with a failed coup years prior. He was never charged with any crime.

Sait Matty Jaw has a similar story. He was conducting a Gallup survey on human rights when he was suddenly arrested by government agents who imprisoned and charged him. He was eventually acquitted but the government appealed the decision to the court. Jaw felt he was no longer safe in his country and fled to Europe.

According to Al Jazeera there are no concrete numbers on Gambians living in exile. But one group, the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, concluded that at least 110 journalists have been exiled since Jammeh took power.

Jammeh’s resistance to relinquishing power is not being welcomed by his west African neighbors. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stated they have troops on standby prepared for military action if Jammeh does not leave power by January 19 when Adama Barrow is set to take office.

Maggie Dwyer of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh believes that the election challenge “buys Jammeh more time and places pressure on ECOWAS to broker a deal.”

On December 20, in a television announcement, Jammeh said “unless the Court decides the case, there will be no inauguration on the 19 January. And let me see what ECOWAS and those big powers behind them can do.”

Gambians within the country and abroad will be looking forward to the decision by the court and the response by ECOWAS and the West. Dwyer states “Nearly all prominent organizations in the Gambia and the UN, AU, ECOWAS, US and more are unlikely to back down on their calls for Jammeh to concede defeat.” Many people will be looking forward to the closing of the Jammeh chapter in Gambia’s history and will be expecting President-elect Barrow to move politics in the Gambia forward in the right direction.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr

Mine-Sniffing-Rats
An unlikely candidate to saving lives comes to mind when looking at the Gambian pouched rat. Almost blind, but with an extraordinarily strong sense of smell, these rats can detect the most minute odors that can lead to saving human lives.

With this unique sense of smell, these rats in rural Africa are being trained to detect land mines in Africa that are remnants of civil war. Being light enough to not trigger the mines, these rats can sweep over a minefield quicker and more effectively in two hours than the traditional 2-3 days through the human method of metal detectors.

Mine-laying became a common military practice in the late 1970s, and while thousands of mines may have been laid, very few were actually detonated during wars. In countries like Cambodia, mines that have been unaccounted for have have lead to 64,00 casualties since 1979, as well as 25,000 people living with amputations.

As land mines are a hidden threat, they pose a danger to unsuspecting passersby; children on their way to school, and men and women just doing their daily tasks, can all be susceptible to this realistic terror. This is why training the Gambian rats is so useful and important to these rural areas.

With this keen sense of smell, researchers have found that they can not only detect the minute smells of land mines, but can also detect diseases like tuberculosis faster and cheaper than with a laboratory microscope. The rats are able to do this by smelling the bacteria that lives within an infected person.

This amazing realization has saved thousands of dollars for developing countries as the World Health Organization’s current endorsed detection machinery, which costs $17,000 with each individual test requiring $17 for equipment.

Studies have recently suggested that the Gambian pouched rat can do even better. With its keen, sensitive sense of smell and ability to be trained, the future possibilities for the functionality of this amazing animal are astounding.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: NYTimes, NYTimes, Child Fund
Photo: Mirror

hunger in the gambia
The smallest country in continental Africa,The Gambia, is among the continent’s least developed and poorest nations. Over half of Gambians live on less than two dollars a day, which makes it very difficult to acquire adequate food provisions for themselves and for their families.

Making that quest even more difficult is the fact that The Gambia’s economy relies on agriculture, yet food production only accounts for 60 percent of the population’s estimated need. The government imports large amounts of food to meet the remaining need of its people, but an agricultural economy vulnerable to the effects of subpar harvests and unpredictable weather means that the government often cannot import enough food to meet 100 percent of the need.

The Gambia is surrounded on three sides by Senegal, thus the limited coastline lends to a lacking fishing industry. Because of a lack of fish processing and a selling of infrastructure, fish are typically sold to companies who have the capacity to keep them fresh and the facilities to sell them, rather than using the fish to feed the Gambian population.

However, the tourism and nut industries are growing in The Gambia, giving the country a bit more wealth with which to take care of its people. Unfortunately, rates of hunger remain high. In at least one of The Gambia’s five geographical regions, three-quarters of the population face the effects of severe malnutrition due to long-standing hunger.

International humanitarian efforts, such as those orchestrated by the United Nations’ World Food Programme, have been somewhat successful in working with the Gambian government to implement sustainable feeding programs.

By assessing what methods have been successful in other countries and modifying them to fit The Gambia’s unique needs, those who have established food aid in this country have created programs that have not only provided food to the hungry, but have also completely prevented hunger within some families.

What’s most important about food aid in The Gambia, though, is that humanitarian organizations have been careful to transfer their knowledge and to teach necessary skills to the Gambians themselves. If aid continues to be this sustainable and effective, hunger in The Gambia has potential to decline measurably.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: World Food Programme, World Bank, All Africa
Photo: Action Aid

ramadan
Ramadan entails a month of spiritual reflection and increased devotion for practicing Muslims, and the predominant custom is fasting from dawn until sunset. But this can be a taxing requirement for those who find it difficult to feed themselves on a daily basis, such as those in the poor communities of Gambia. Luckily, the Netherlands is pitching in to help Muslims in Gambia celebrate the holy month.

The International Humanitarian Hulporganisatie Netherlands (IHHNL) donated and distributed food aid to Muslims in Gambia throughout the month of Ramadan. The items included 32 rams, 500 25-kg bags of rice, 500 five-liter gallons of cooking oil and 500 10-kg bags of sugar. IHHNL also provided a local well for the community.

The donation was made by IHHNL in collaboration with the Gambian Cemiyatul Hayr Relief Organization (CHRO), and the foodstuffs were apportioned among 23 Gambian villages. The presentation and slaughtering of the rams took place at Kiang Kwinella village in Gambia’s Lower River Region.

The joint IHHNL-CHRO program was intended to provide gifts and food to help those in need participate in the Ramadan festivities and traditions, especially considering Ramadan is a month dedicated to sharing and compassion. Alkalo Lamin Manjang, a speaker at the presentation in Kwinella village, thanked IHHNL for being a “true friend” to the poor of Gambia.

Alhagie Demba Sanyang, the Chief of Kiang Central, thanked the organization for doing “everything possible to ensure the entire district enjoys meat with their families… specially in Ramadan.” The Chief and the community presented IHHNL with a certificate of appreciation for their contributions to the poor.

The donors from IHHNL spoke of their wish to help the needy in Africa in places without war and thanked the Gambian government for such a peaceful environment where the presentation of such donations could be made possible.

The IHHNL and CHRO have been collaborating on aid efforts such as this for more than ten years. According to CHRO Country Director Musa Jallow, the IHHNL learned of the CHRO in 2003 and agreed with its operating structure. The two organizations “restarted their operations and went into formal agreement with all codes of conduct to be adhered by both organizations.” Since 2003, they have been working together to provide and distribute food aid packages to Gambians, usually during Ramadan.

Because of the IHNHL and CHRO’s efforts, even the poor and needy of Gambia can participate in the fasting of Ramadan, knowing that there will be adequate food available at nightfall.

Mari LeGagnoux

Sources: All Africa, The Point
Photo: Biyokulule

LGBT Community in Gambia
In the midst of a televised speech for the Gambia’s 49th National Day, President Yahya Jammeh directly threatened the LGBT community of his country, declaring, “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

Jammeh’s feelings on the LGBT community have not been a secret. In September 2013, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, he made a point of calling homosexuality one of the “biggest threats to human existence” and in early 2012, condemned “ungodly gay marriages.”

While Jammeh has previously stated that the people of Gambia will not be discriminated against based on color or religion, he is adamant that they behave in an appropriate fashion. He clearly does not accept the LGBT community as adhering to appropriate behavior for members of his country, going so far to say “We will respect human rights where a human being behaves like a human being”.

Jammeh strips the LGBT community of its rights by persecuting the people for living an authentic life. United States Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in response to Jammeh’s speech, imploring, “the Government of the Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.” Kerry went on to express his support to the LGBT community in Gambia.

Additionally, Britain and other Western nations are threatening to cut aid to governments that pass anti-gay laws, which would include Gambia.

However, Jammeh is unshaken by this and even claims, “We will not accept any friendship, aid, or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them.” Jammeh is adamant that Gambia will become a completely independent nation free from international aid. His hateful stance toward the LGBT community may ensure that he loses international aid sooner than expected.

Despite Jammeh’s desire for a free and independent Gambia, he does not support all his citizens and directly threatens those who identify as LGBT or any diplomats who identify in the same fashion. “Let me also make it very clear that Gambia will not spare any homosexual and therefore no Diplomatic Immunity will be respected for any Diplomat who is found guilty or accused of being a homosexual.”

At this time it is unclear what can be done from the outside to shift perception and laws in Gambia.  It is hoped that promoting human rights for all will eventually remove the stigma from the LGBT community in Gambia. Nonetheless, the international community must take action to prevent the persecution and possible death of Gambian citizens threatened in President Jammeh’s speech.

– Cameron Barney

Sources: The Point, Slate, U.S. Department of State, The Daily Observer, The Independent
Photo: Demotix