Banjul, 25 July 2014: The United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, completed a visit to The Gambia, where he met senior Government officials, the humanitarian and development community as well as donors. During his mission, he also visited a maize seeds farm and the pediatric ward of one of the Edward Francis Small hospital in Banjul, hearing the concerns of farmers and families of malnourished children.
“The start of the rainy season is weeks late and farmers I met are very worried that delayed rainfalls will jeopardize their planting season”, said Piper. “The impact on the country’s food production will be felt in a couple of months and risks hitting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable families hardest, pushing more people deeper into food insecurity and poverty.”
A third of The Gambia’s 1.8 million inhabitants are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity - of whom 200,000 already need critical food assistance, and 50,000 children suffer from malnutrition of which 7,000 are in the severe category of acute malnourishment. To address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable, humanitarian actors estimate that US$ 26 is required for 2014. To date, The Gambia humanitarian response plan has only received about US$ 3.5 million, or 13.5 per cent, of its humanitarian requirements.
“As we enter the critical lean season and the epidemics and flood period, an increasing number of Gambians need and deserve immediate support”, said Ade Lekoetje, the UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia. “Gambians face the same great challenges as other communities in the Sahel but our humanitarian operations are greatly challenged by funding gaps” echoed the Regional Coordinator for the Sahel, calling on international donors to step in and support the lingering emergency in the country.
Over 80 per cent of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods, making people particularly vulnerable to the recurring climate hazards such as frequents droughts and floods. Failed crops or low agricultural yields risk decreasing the duration of farmer’s self-reliance on their own food stocks, forcing impoverished families to purchase food from the market, often at higher price, selling assets, taking on heavy loans and generally eroding their resilience. “This is why we welcome the Government’s efforts for increased agricultural production and focus on resilience-building”, said Ade Lekoetje.
“The pattern of chronic crises can be reversed in The Gambia” said Piper, noting the potential of the country’s resources. Reaffirming the humanitarian community’s commitment to responding to urgent needs, he noted nevertheless that “humanitarian aid alone cannot break the vulnerability cycle. More must be done by all actors – the Government, its development partners and humanitarians - jointly. The development of a shared analysis of the country’s vulnerabilities, enhanced coordination amongst key actors and an acceleration of decentralization efforts in the country are core reforms which will lead to real improvements in the lives of thousands of Gambians.”
For further information, please call: Bérénice Van Den Driessche, OCHA West and Central Africa, email@example.com, +221 77 333 91 95
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.