Gambia’s Uncontrolled Borders, COVID-19 Fear Grips Inhabitants
The Gambian authorities have confirmed the first Coronavirus case (COVID-19) on Tuesday, but the country still maintains its porous borders open to unrestricted movements. The borderline communities that are not under any security and health-check are in fear in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal in all fronts – north and south – except the Atlantic Ocean. With cases in Senegal increasing, most people believe that land borders should be shut down by now.
Although the ministry of health has launched surveillance along the borders with its nurses equipped with temperature devices to test the body condition of those coming in and leaving, the uncontrolled borders are left exposed.
In the community of Balangharr, one of the southern Gambian borders, Ebrima Faal said there are risks because his area’s border is unprotected.
“We are really fearful here at this time because we can see how people from both Gambia and Senegal are moving in and out without any tests being done to them.”
This border is among numerous others that are not protected ever in the history of the country.
“For us we put our hopes and trust in God as far as this disease is concerned. We will continue to pray to God for our safety.”
Faal calls on the government to consider their plights in this difficult situation.
Mass Sowe, a youth leader and a native of Kaur Touray Kunda is also concerned with the free movement of people across the borders in the midst of this global pandemic.
He suggested that the government should put a sharp eye on the movement of people between the two countries, especially people coming through these uncontrolled borders.
“Am very concerned about our safety, we are very close to the borders and every day Senegalese are going in and out because of the porous border around these parts of the country. I want to appeal to the government to provide health posts in most of these unofficial borders because this is the only way to save us,” Mass said.
He advised people living around the borders to report suspected cases to the nearest health centre to avoid the widespread.
The Chronicle contacted the health administrator of the North Bank Region (NBR), Lamin J. Jobarteh about the situation. He said the health officials are doing everything possible to control the disease from spreading.
He said intense efforts are ongoing at the official border posts of Karang and Kerr Ayib in terms of personnel and equipment to deal with the situation.
“Our activities are not limited at the border posts but also strengthening the already existing cross border collaboration between the two countries, weekly radio talk shows, school health education and community sensitization and engagement along the border villages are on high gear,” Jobarteh stated.
The former health minister, Omar Sey advised that entry points should be up-to-date.
“The point of entries must be up-to-date with the solar system, water and electricity issues resolved. Staff should be trained, equipped and motivated, bureaucracy should be lessened and more awareness created.”
Sey was the minister when the Ebola outbreak stormed the world but the country did not register any case. The authorities who are currently in charge of affairs emphasised using the same strategies and mechanisms without reinventing a new wheel. Sey encouraged every Gambian to collaborate with the government in preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
“There is a plan of action and it should be followed. All sub-committees should be given the available resources according to the plan of action, every support must address the plan of action and no vertical activities,” former Minister Omar Sey stated.
He also urged for raising awareness of people on preventive measures particularly in the rural area, while encouraging everyone to report suspected cases to 1025.