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