Living Conditions in GambiaThe Gambia is a small West African country with a population of over 2 million. It is surrounded by Senegal on all sides except for a small length of shoreline, and it has the largest population density in the region. As of December 2018, after 22 years of dictatorship that ended with a bloodless coup d’etat, Gambia enjoyed its second year of freedom. While the small country is still healing, poor living conditions in the Gambia are too common, especially where economic security and healthcare are concerned.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Gambia

  1. In 2003, 34.3 percent of the country lived on less than one dollar a day. Conditions slightly improved over the past decade and in 2015, only 10.1 percent lived on less than one dollar a day.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations classifies the Gambia as a food-deficit country. This means the Gambia does not produce enough food to meet its own needs and lacks the economic power to fill the gap by importing food. According to FAO, the country only produces enough food for half of its own consumption needs and only 10 percent of the staple rice crop is produced locally.
  3. Education is compulsory in Gambia between the ages of seven and 15. However, the education system does not reach everybody. According to UNESCO, as of 2018, 72,096 children in Gambia are not attending school. In addition, adult literacy rates are low. Only 55.5 percent of men and 47.6 percent of women were found to be literate in 2015.
  4. In 2018, the infant mortality in Gambia was 60.2 deaths per 1000 live births. The rate of infant mortality was significantly higher in rural areas than in cities. This is due to the higher risk of diseases such as malaria and pneumonia in rural areas, which are among the leading causes of death in Gambian children under the age of five.
  5. The maternal mortality rate in Gambia was 706 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. According to the World Health Organization, one key factor in the distressing rate of maternal mortality was a lack of proper medical assistance at birth for many mothers. It was estimated that skilled medical personnel attended only 57 percent of births in Gambia.
  6. Another leading factor in both maternal and infant mortality is malnutrition. Research shows that malnutrition heightens the risk of mortality for both mothers and children. Studies show that lack of nutrition contributes to 45 percent of child mortality. Data from the WHO highlighted that 23.4 percent of children in Gambia suffered from stunted growth and 17.4 percent are underweight. However, while the risks are still high, malnutrition rates have shown a gradual downward trend in recent years.
  7. A major issue with the Gambian healthcare system is the shortage of doctors and other medical personnel. At least half of all public health workers in Gambia end up leaving the public sector because of low pay and difficult work. While many of these workers join the private sector, many others leave the country altogether. As a result, medical professionals in the public sector are often overworked, and medical resources are stretched dangerously thin.
  8. In 2015, Gambia had a GINI coefficient of 35.9, meaning that it has moderate inequality. The lowest 10 percent of the country holds three percent of the country’s income share, while the top 20 percent holds 43.6 percent. While there is some inequality, conditions have improved dramatically in the past two decades. The country’s GINI score decreased more than ten points since the late 1990s.
  9. The average life expectancy in Gambia is 61.4 years. Women’s life expectancy is 63.3 years while men’s is 60.6 years. These numbers are higher compared to the average life expectancy in the Western African region, which is 62 years for women and 59 for men. In addition, there has been a steady upward trend in life expectancy for both sexes over the past decade.
  10. Gambia’s goal is to eliminate all new malaria cases by 2020. In fact, malaria rates have gone steadily down in recent years.  Between 2011 and 2017, the number of new malaria cases went down by 40 percent. It is possible that Gambia may be the first country in the region to eliminate malaria.

Living conditions in Gambia improved slowly but steadily in the past few decades. The country struggled to achieve these improvements and it will most likely continue to be an uphill battle. Hopefully, by continuing to work for improvement, living conditions in Gambia will improve and the country will move away from its past of poverty and toward a brighter future.

Keira Charles
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Gambia is a West African nation that shares most of its borders with Senegal. Despite some political instability during the past presidential election, the Gambia has remained relatively peaceful and houses a substantial number of refugees from surrounding regions. In fact, the Gambia plays a key role in alleviating the West African refugee crisis. The following are 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia.

10 Facts About Refugees Living in the Gambia

  1. The Gambia is considered one of the most refugee-friendly countries in West Africa. This can be primarily attributed to the nation’s status as a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which guarantees refugees of certain nationalities the right to work within the Gambia. Additionally, it has upheld the OAU convention held by the UN Refugee Agency in 1969, which outlined policies and protocols regarding the protection of West African refugees.
  2. According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 12,000 refugees living in the Gambia. However, the agency notes that other sources place the number between 10,000 and 30,000, as many are undocumented.
  3. The Gambia is an attractive option for English-speaking refugees, as the country maintains its colonial language as the official language.
  4. The Gambia was a major ally for Senegalese in the Casamance region of Senegal displaced by the civil war, which started in 1982 and only recently resolved in 2014. The Bambali refugee camp has accommodated hundreds of Senegalese during this period.
  5. During the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis, the Gambia offered asylum to all Southeast Asian migrants, fulfilling the “sacred duty” to help fellow Muslims.
  6. The majority of refugees living in the Gambia come from Sierra Leone, fleeing the country’s recent civil conflict. In 2003, the Gambia initiated a voluntary repatriation program for Sierra Leoneans to return home, aiding the transition for thousands of refugees.
  7. Undocumented urban refugees make up the majority of those living in the Gambia. One estimate places 10,000 living in the capital of Banjul alone.
  8. Roughly four out of 10 Gambian refugees depend on remittances from relatives or family members abroad. Refugees require a residence permit to earn money in the Gambia. However, many refugees do not have one or are still in the application process.
  9. The Gambian Food and Nutrition Association (GFNA) donated money to Senegalese refugees in 2015 with the intention of “sustaining livelihood” and “supporting self-reliance at the household level.” The GFNA has also provided food in refugee camps.
  10. The UN Refugee Agency reported that Gambian host communities were generally very accepting of refugees seeking asylum. Due to the strong culture of hospitality, integration is a good option for refugees.

Though only 10,000 square kilometers in size, the Gambia’s open policy towards migrants has made a substantial impact in helping refugees. These 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia indicate that the nation will continue to uphold their open policy towards West African refugees in the years to come.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr

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

Poverty in the Gambia
The Islamic Republic of Gambia is a small West African nation of fewer than two million people and surrounded on almost all sides by Senegal. With an economy built on a small patch of tourism, peanuts, and money sent home from abroad, poverty in the Gambia has had a period of stability for the past two decades.

The authoritarian government of outgoing president Yahya Jammeh has been in power since 1994. As recently as 2006, President Jammeh’s campaign claimed that government aid and continued development would only go to its supporters, while those who supported others should expect nothing.

Hope for Reducing Poverty in The Gambia

Today, more than a third of The Gambia’s population lives below the U.N. poverty line of $1.25 per day. The nation’s poor are mostly in rural areas, and 60 percent of The Gambia relies on agriculture to make a living. Irregular rainfall, economic instability and fluctuating food pricing all contribute to the plight of the Gambian proletariat.

Low productivity persists in the staple area of rice farming, where inefficient technologies and practices lead to less yield during harvests and contribute to worsening soil fertility. Few rural institutions are able to provide basic social services and credit.

In a surprise turn of events, President Jammeh lost this year’s election to a candidate who ran on issues of economic revival, ending human rights violations, and establishing a more earnest democracy. With the end of Jammeh’s presidency comes a potential for The Gambia to begin receiving increased funding from the U.N. and E.U. Ban Ki-moon and Federica Mogherini have stated, on behalf of the U.N. and E.U. respectively, that their institutions are prepared to support The Gambia.

The President-elect, Adama Barrow, is already promising to strengthen relations with Europe and other potential partners in development. Many relationships had been strained by the Jammeh administration, and after 22 years, The Gambia may be in a position to put its most vulnerable at the forefront of its government.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

education in the gambia
Located in west Africa, just slightly less than twice the size of Delaware bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal, lies the smallest country on the continent of Africa, the Gambia. Of the estimated 1,925,527 residents of the Gambia, 90 percent are of Muslim religion and the population can be deemed mono-ethnic with only 1 percent of the population reported as non-African.

The Gambia’s education expenditure was an estimated 4.1 percent of the GDP in 2012 and ranked 109th in comparison to the rest of the world. The Gambia’s literacy rate (defined as those who are 15 and over and can read and write) for the total population was estimated at a mere 51.1 percent in 2011 (male: 60.9 percent, female: 41.9 percent.) In comparison, the United States doubles this rate with 99 percent of the total population deemed as literate.

The school life expectancy, primary to tertiary education, in 2008 totaled to only 9 years— the U.S.’s school life expectancy totaled to 17 years. Contributing to low school attendance rates is the prevalence of child labor (children ages five to 14), which was estimated at 103,389 (25 percent) in 2006.

The Gambia’s Education Structure: Lower and Upper Basic School

The formal system of education in the Gambia operates on a 6-3-3-4 system. Basic education consists of six years of primary (lower basic) and three years of upper basic education, together totaling to 9 years of uninterrupted basic education.

Typically, gambian children start school at age seven. From ages seven to 13, the students are enrolled in a lower basic school. At grade six, students take a placement exam.

At age 13, students enter an upper basic school for three years until they are 16 years old. Upon completion the upper basic school, the students take a Basic Education Certificate Exam (BECE) in nine or 10 subjects and this completes their basic education. Depending on their performance on the terminal examination offered in the ninth grade, the student may attend a Senior Secondary School or other Vocational Training provisions.

According to the U.S. Embassy, “Until 2002, primary education lasted for six years and led to the Primary School Leaving Certificate (phased out). Secondary education was divided into junior secondary schools, which offered a three-year course leading to the Junior School Leaving Certificate, and Senior Secondary schools which offered a three-year course. Since 2002, a new unified basic education system was introduced covering 1-9 years, through an automatic transition with no examination at the end of the lower basic cycle. The cycle is divided into two cycles: lower basic (Grades I–VI) and upper basic (Grades VII–IX).”

In the Gambia, there are 368 lower basic schools and 89 upper basic schools. Another type of school system in the Gambia called the basic cycle schools is a combination of the lower and upper basic school.

Senior Secondary School (SSS)

Admission to Senior Secondary/High School is very competitive in the Gambia. 75 percent of Gambian students attend government schools. According to the U.S. Embassy, “Secondary schools offer a variety of subjects in science, arts and commerce. At the end of Grade 12, pupils sit for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council. Students in all the 55 Senior High Schools take a Core curriculum consisting of English language, integrated science, mathematics and social studies. Each student also takes three or four elective subjects, chosen from one of seven groups: sciences, ‘arts’ (social sciences and humanities) or commerce (visual arts or home economics).”

Collegiate Education

Like the United States, gambian students pursuing an undergraduate program at a university will typically study there for four years prior to receiving their bachelor’s degree. There is also a significant amount of Gambian students studying in the U.S. In the 2007-2008 academic years, 330 Gambian students were studying in the U.S. at various times. Also similar to the U.S., Gambian student may further their education at a university as a graduate student for over a year to obtain their Master’s degree.

Eastin Shipman

Sources: U.S. Embassy, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, CIA 1, CIA 2
Photo: Access Gambia

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

Gambia Grant
BANJUL, The Gambia – UNICEF has recently committed $300,000 to the nation of The Gambia to fight child malnutrition. The Gambia, a nation half the size of New Jersey and located on the west coast of Africa, has acquired an additional $15 million for the issue of food security out of $1.7 billion UNICEF has dedicated to the Sahel region of the continent.

The Gambia is especially in need of this child malnutrition grant since nearly 50% of its population of 1.7 million consists of children under the age of 18. UNICEF’s work is particularly important to this nation because of its large youth population.

Overall, 34% of Gambians live under the poverty line. Fortunately, however, most Gambians are fully immunized and have access to improved water sources and sanitation facilities. UNICEF is working to ensure that all Gambian children are fully immunized, well-nourished, have access to clean water and sanitation, and receive an education. Ultimately, The Gambia’s future will be greatly impacted by UNICEF’s work, as it not only improves children’s lives now, but it also provides the nation with the tools it needs to have a healthy and productive population in subsequent years.

Jordan Kline

Sources: UNICEF, The Daily Observer