Around the various communities in The Gambia, the COVID-19 pandemic is ever so present in most conversations and on the minds of the close to two millions inhabitants concerned. The water tanks and antiseptic gels are common in front of most businesses, organisations and institutions for the general public to wash their hands and protect themselves, as well as their respective households. According to UNICEF: “As the pandemic spreads, prioritization and sequencing of response measures is crucial. UNICEF the Gambia is rapidly scaling up and striving to maintain continuity of programmes and operations while responding and adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact.” This Institution has stated the following in that regards concerning the various sectors of intervention that their efforts are focused on:
- Keep Children Healthy
As the COVID-19 continues to upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in The Gambia, one of our key priorities is to shore up health system capacities to maintain routine immunization, maternal, new-born, young child and adolescent care, HIV treatment, nutrition services and capacities to respond to other life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia. In addition, we are also strengthening risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) to ensure children and their families know how to protect themselves from COVID-19 and know how to seek assistance. And to keep everyone safe and healthy, we invest in skilling frontline health workers who play a crucial role in the COVID-19 response.
- Reach Vulnerable Children With Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
Part of our response strategy is to promote personal hygiene – hand washing with soap and water – which is vital to staying safe from the Coronavirus. We are also working with The Gambia Government and partners…At regional and community levels; we support local water and sanitation authorities to ensure continuity, quality and affordable access to WASH services for the poorest and most vulnerable families.
- Keep Children Learning
One of the biggest disruptions caused by the COVID-19 is closure of schools- schools everywhere have been closed and children are missing out on important classroom lessons…we work with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and other education partners to provide large scale and inclusive distance learning for students across The Gambia. We also invest in and prioritize internet connectivity, radio coverage in rural and underserved areas, ensure protective services provided at schools continue at home and invest in skilling frontline education and social service workers and businesses to support parents.
- Support Families to Cover Their Needs and Care for Their Children
Due to the lockdown, families could face severe economic hardships….We work to ensure access to services to cover basic needs for families affected by a loss of income, including through the provision of emergency cash transfer/voucher, the expansion of existing social protection provisions, and adjusting and/or scaling up cash. As part of our social protection support, we advocate for the inclusion of the most vulnerable children and households in national/global social and economic recovery measures adopted in response to COVID-19.
- Protect Children From Violence, Exploitation and Abuse
The social restrictions associated with COVID-19 expose children and mothers to violence, stigmatization and discrimination at home and online…we invest in the social service workforce as key actors of the COVID-19 response and health, education and social service workers…
The future leaders of The Gambia are being catered for, however how are other segments of the society coming along. On March 19th, 2020, the U.S Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory which served as a precautionary restraint for all its citizens to travel on an international scale. The same source states that as of June 18th, 2020, The Gambia had confirmed 36 cases of COVID-19 cases on its territory and that the Government had extended the State of Emergency for another twenty one days as of June 10th, 2020. It further states that The Government also announced the reopening of the markets on June 4th, of the mosques on June 5th and of churches on June 7th. According to the UNDP, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs of The Gambia had stated that the COVID-19 outbreak would cause a loss of 2.5 Billion Dalasis and that our economy would shrink by 3 points. However, the IMF issued a press release on April 15th, 2020 to communicate that their Institution had approved a disbursement of $21.3 Million USD to the Government of The Gambia under their Rapid Credit Facility to help them combat the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (Balance of Payments, strengthening of Medical Care and implementation of social distancing and other containment measures)
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of The Gambia relies heavily on the Agriculture, Tourism and Fisheries Sectors. With all activities at a halt, the households are seeing their purchasing powers disappear as uncertainty takes over. Are we going to see the second wave of the pandemic in the global arena? Are the cases going to remain minimal in Africa, in The Gambia? Our leaders are facing never imagined challenges and must innovate/pioneer to tackle the rising unemployment rates that could create social instability and accentuate poverty. New industries will have to be created for citizens of the 3rd Republic to participate competitively and sustainably in the “Global Village.” Education, which is at the core of all nation building endeavors, will have to be prioritized. Legislation could see the necessary reforms grant educational access to the masses in their local languages to reduce the illiteracy rates and promote inclusiveness. The battle has just begun and the strategies shall set as free as we cater to our 3rd Republic and its outstanding citizens.