12 October 2014


Campaigner wants The Gambia government to criminalise FGM

Jaha Dukuray, the young Gambian woman leading a high-profile anti-FGM campaign in the United States, has called on the government of The Gambia to promulgate laws rendering the act illegal.
In an interview with The Standard yesterday at the Paradise Suites Hotel, where dozens of young people from across the country gathered to learn about the harmful effects of FGM and social media campaign, she said: “I think the government needs to criminalise FGM in The Gambia and I also think we need to change our approach when it comes to advocating against the practice. For decades now, there has been a lot of organisations in the country that are advocating against FGM and working on the issue but numbers have not decreased that much. I think the young people are where the difference is because the focus has been on the older generation. When you focus on the young people, they are the new generation. The government should focus on the young people and educate them because our young people are smart and knowledgeable. Girls can decide not to have their daughters go through FGM. They can go back to their communities and educate people and let them know what they have learnt here. That is why we are focused on the youth and together with the government and all other NGOs, we can come up with a plan. I know Gamcotrap has been doing an amazing job and they are partners in this event but I think we also need to shift our attention and be more youth-focused because they are the future. If we cannot end FGM on the past generations, we can focus on the present generation that have undergone FGM and focus on the ones that we should protect from going through this practice.”
The 24-year old, who founded Safe Hands for Girls and serves as an adviser to the Obama administration on FGM, added: “One thing I want to say is that we are not here to challenge the government, we're here to complement the work they are doing and we want them to know that we want to work in partnership with them. This is a collaborative effort and if they don't help us, we can't achieve what we want. We are here to support and to drive the conversation that FGM is harmful and I think we need to work together with the government and members of the parliament. I am here until October 20 and I am thinking about extending my trip past that if I need to because I really want to meet with members of the National Assembly of The Gambia. I also do want to meet with the head of state and I do want to meet with everybody that I need to meet with to make sure that we start that process of criminalising FGM. If I have to stay in The Gambia for six months, a year, I'm going to do that to make sure that I continue working with the youth and continue what I have started, because this means a lot to me and I think we can do it if we keep up the momentum. We need to both empower and enlighten ourselves about the issue.”

07 October 2014


Ex-UK ambassador says still committed to Gambia's dev't

Former British ambassador to The Gambia, David Morley, has restated his commitment to make efforts aimed at supporting the country's development.
In an interview with The Standard, following him being voted onto the board of Marlborough Brandt Group in the UK last week, he said: “My main objective in joining MBG is to do something for people other than myself, specifically Gambians. As a Trustee this means supporting the organisation in the best way I can, using my experience and contacts in the most productive and effective way possible. When I left The Gambia in February this year I wasn't just changing jobs - after 40-odd years in the British Diplomatic Service I had decided to call it a day and retire. But while I was happy to no longer be a wage slave I still needed something to keep the brain functioning. Nor did Jacki (my wife) or I want to lose touch with The Gambia. Just while I was chewing over my options, I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity to stand as a trustee for MBG. I was delighted to be confirmed at last month's AGM. So the chance to join MBG as a trustee means I can keep an eye on The Smiling Coast, and perhaps one day even visit, for all the best reasons. It is great to be part of MBG and very interesting to see how everything works as an insider, rather than as an observer and partner, as I was. The dedication and commitment of Dr Nick and his team is even clearer to me now than it was before. They work hard regularly chasing opportunities on behalf of the Gunjur community, be they commercial or developmental. It is quite a challenge not to interfere in the day to day operations of MBG, so mostly I just support Nick when he asks me to help with something. I'm conscious that I am still learning and look forward to completing my induction course later this month”.

In a riposte to Amir Khan's comments in the British media of seeing “starving orphans” in The Gambia, the retired career diplomat said: “MBG is always ready to defend both its relationship with the community and indeed the community itself. The most recent example of this was that very strange story about starving orphans. Dr Nick moved very quickly to sort that out. I never saw anyone starving in Gunjur, or anywhere else in the country”.

01 October 2014


UN Says 200,000 Gambians in need of urgent food aid

A total of 200,000 Gambians are in need of urgent food aid as a result of poor response to calls for humanitarian assistance which has occasioned acute malnutrition in 50,000 children, 8,000 of whom are in the highest category of severity.  A few weeks ahead of the harvest, the Gambian government, UN agencies and donors met in Dakar to review the humanitarian situation in the country.
In a grim assessment of the situation, the UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje said: “The food security situation in The Gambia is deteriorating. Today, a third of Gambia’s 1.8 million inhabitants are food insecure.  Of those, 200,000 have already crossed the emergency threshold and need urgent food assistance.  Across the country, 50,000 children are acutely malnourished, 8,000 of them in the highest category of severity. The work of humanitarian teams who are trying to help communities through these harsh times is greatly challenged. Resources are coming too little and too late. Since the beginning of humanitarian operations in The Gambia in 2012, the effort has been chronically under-funded.  Last year, only 2% of the US$ 15 million required for the humanitarian response was secured, the lowest level of funding received of all Sahel countries in 2013. This year, US$ 18.3 million are required to address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable. Priority interventions include food, nutrition and agricultural assistance in addition to support increased access to water, sanitation and health services. To date only US$ 4 million, or 21 per cent, of the funding needed has been received.  Despite major crises unfolding around the globe and in the region, the needs of vulnerable Gambians must not be overlooked.  We are entering a critical season with risks of locust invasion, epidemics and floods, where needs will increase. Coping capacities of Gambian communities have been challenged in recent years, with more frequent droughts and floods. Without timely support, communities are going deeper into poverty with every shock”.
Robert Piper, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel said to the meeting: “The rainy season started weeks late in The Gambia and when the rains eventually came, they were erratic and probably insufficient to salvage the season. A bad harvest can have dire consequences for the food security of thousands of families and badly impact the nutritional status of their children”.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Kebba Touray and the Minister of Health and Social Affairs of The Gambia Omar Sey briefed the meeting on the Government’s vision for increased agricultural production and resilience-building, as well as plans for improved health coverage and Ebola preparedness. “Our Government is committed to building the resilience of poorest households in the Gambia for the mid to long term and this is demonstrated through an increase in budget allocation to the agriculture and health sector. But in the meantime, current emergency needs in the Gambia caused by external shocks such as the erratic rainfall pattern and the need for Ebola preparedness require collaboration and support from our partners,” Kebba Touray told the meeting.