The Gambia is a small West African country that people know for its diverse ecosystems around the Gambia River. It is the smallest country within mainland Africa and farming, fishing and tourism drive its economy. The Gambia has a life expectancy of 65 years which is relatively low when considering that the global average life expectancy is 72 years. The Gambia also faces problems associated with poverty that can have serious effects on population and life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in The Gambia.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in The Gambia
- HIV/AIDS – Twenty-one thousand people are currently living with HIV or AIDS in The Gambia with only 30 percent seeking treatment. Since 2010, The Gambia has been working towards lowering the rate of transmission between mothers and children. With the establishment of the National AIDS Control Programme, HIV infections have decreased by 3 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 23 percent.
- Lack of Health Care Providers – The Gambia faces a lack of health care providers. According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, The Gambia had only 156 physicians. The World Health Organization recommends one doctor for every 1,000 people, whereas The Gambia only has one doctor for every 10,000. The International Organization for Migration, in partnership with the World Health Organization, is attempting to increase the amount of health care providers through its program, Migration for Development in Africa.
- Infant Mortality Rate – The infant mortality rate in The Gambia is at 58 deaths per 1,000 live births, severely affecting the life expectancy in The Gambia. Malaria is the cause for 4 percent of infant deaths under the age of 1, and 25 percent between the ages of 1 and 4. The National Malaria Control Programme launched in 2014 and prevents 75 percent of all malaria and severe malaria episodes.
- Maternal Mortality Rate – The maternal mortality rate in The Gambia is 706 deaths per 100,000 live births. The major cause behind maternal mortality is a lack of prompt response to emergencies combined with disorganized health care. Improving accessibility is necessary for preventing maternal deaths.
- Income – The average gross salary is $0.57 per hour with 75 percent of the labor force working in agriculture. Long-term challenges that the economy of The Gambia faces include an undiversified economy, limited access to resources and high population growth.
- Malnutrition – Approximately 11 percent of the country is chronically food insecure and 21 percent of children under 5 are malnourished which impacts the life expectancy in The Gambia. Thirty percent of the population do not have proper nourishment–a number that has increased over the past decade. The Gambia relies heavily on imports of food staples along with low agricultural production has made it easy to become food deficient. UNICEF has begun treating cases of malnutrition through preventative and curative services.
- Water – Only 32 percent of households have access to clean water with unprotected wells being more common in rural areas. With 4 percent of the rural population practicing open defecation, water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases account for 20 percent of under-5 deaths. Water for Africa has begun to send aid to The Gambia in the form of building wells.
- Education – The Gambia sends its children to six years of primary school and three years of upper basic education, but there are still gaps in education. With aid from the United States and the World Bank, The Gambia launched its Education Sector Support Program to promote early childhood development and boost access to basic education. The project also provides for the building of 40 schools in remote areas.
- Malaria Endemic – Peak season for malaria is during the rainy season from June to October. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works to provide relief to malaria outbreaks in The Gambia with cases that have declined by 50 percent from 2011 to 2016. The CRS works by distributing bed nets and focusing its aid on children under 5 and pregnant women.
- Employment – Farming employs at least 70 percent of the population. Farmers are reliant on rain-fed agriculture. Most cannot afford improved seeds and fertilizers. Between 2011 and 2013, poverty, food shortages and malnutrition have increased due to crop failures that droughts caused.
Despite problems people associate with agriculture, income and health, life expectancy in The Gambia is rising while infant and maternal mortality rates are declining.
– Darci Flatley