Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview With Ben Kioko, AU Legal Director

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The formulation of a human rights strategy for Africa needs proper coordination, collaboration and coherence among the different actors in the human rights sphere, said Ben Kioko African Union (AU) Legal Director.
Mr. Kioko was speaking in an exclusive interview with our reporter at the Senegambia Beach Hotel on 11 March 2010, shortly after the official opening of a three-day meeting on the African Human Rights Strategy.
According to Kioko, in developing a human rights strategy for Africa, Africa must now move to domestication and implementation of adopted instruments.
When asked to dilate on the objectives of the meeting, Kioko spoke of the challenges that necessitate a more focused and strategic orientation to human rights challenges in Africa.
He also stated that the forum would look at where they have made progress, and challenges and how to shape out solutions and promote human rights in the continent.
Basically, "we will look at how to do things together as actors and what each should do in protecting and promoting human rights in Africa."
"We will engage with approaches that facilitate comprehension of the existing African Union Human Rights Strategy through discussion and making recommendations on the road map and way forward for the human rights strategy".
He added, "To also build synergies between the human rights strategy with other governance initiatives like the evolving African Governance Architecture".
According to Kioko, the forum will serve as a place where by the AU and other stakeholders, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations work collectively, but not "independently".
According to Kioko, the meeting will establish a basis on which to enhance the implementation and enforceability capacity of African human rights institutions and organs, and will establish the collective actions that needed to be instituted in the human rights arena for the short and long-term.
He reiterated that gaps exist in Africa, and spoke about its human rights situation, saying that some of the instruments are not being implemented by the governments.
These gaps, he went on, can be filled by putting mechanisms to build relationships between the AU and various organs such as CSOs, NGOs and other stakeholders.
The AU Legal Director mentioned that articles 3 and 4 of the AU Constitutive Act lays emphasis on the significance of good governance, the rule of law and human rights, adding that state parties need to abide by them.
He further explained that, "a lot has been done in Africa for the protection and promotion of human rights, but the fact is that there still exists gaps that needed to be filled".
According to Kioko, through the leadership of the AU, Africa has developed a number of initiatives saying that are all aimed at promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
Similarly, the United Nations has also established global human rights initiatives that, he explained, find practical expression in the African continent.
Ben Kioko stated that the African Union Commission approved a strategic plan for 2009-2012, and that the plan calls for enhanced coordinated actions amongst AU organs.

Africa polio eradication scheme launched
The campaign will target children under the age of five in 19 countriesA campaign has been launched to eradicate polio in west and central Africa, targeting 85 million children.
Some 400,000 health workers and volunteers will go from door-to-door in 19 countries, giving oral polio vaccine to children under the age of five.
Africa has made significant progress in the fight against polio, which attacks the nervous system, but the virus has still not been stamped out.
Previous efforts at eradication failed as too few children were vaccinated.
The effort is a joint campaign by the Red Cross and United Nations.
Many analysts believe the key to its success lies with Nigeria.
In the past, campaigns in the north of the country were met with suspicion by religious leaders, some of whom even suggested the vaccinations were an attempt to spread sterility and HIV.
But religious groups are now showing support for vaccination drives, and correspondents say there is optimism that the debilitating, sometimes fatal, virus can be eradicated.

EU's Out To Divide Africa

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Governor of the Western Region, Lamin Sanneh, has said the European Union is out to divide and rule Africa through applying pressure on African countries to support the EPAs.
"There is a request made by the west that we need to open our markets for trade, but there are implications" because "the least developed countries do not have enough stock to supply the markets of the west", Lamin Sanneh said.
He made this statement when the National Youth Association for Food Security (NaYAFS) organised a one-day Civil Society Organisation (CS) and Stakeholders Meeting held in February 2010 to sensitise the Western Region community on the effects of endorsing EPA agreements in their present form on their lives and livelihood.
According to Mr. Sanneh, as a result of pressure exerted by the European Union (EU) on some of the least developed countries within the region, Ghana and Ivory Coast, have both internalised the EPA.
Following this development, NaYAFS has found it a matter of urgency to get all stakeholders, policy makers, lawmakers, civil societies, farmers, private and the public sector and the media to dialogue on the state of affairs of the negotiations and the stakes that lie ahead regarding the EPAs.
If the countries in the region are given a positive answer to the West by internalising the EPA, according to Mr. Sanneh, then "Africa will face competition in terms of quality products", in their markets.
Elaborating, the Governor indicated that international trade agreements and (or) rules continue to affect millions of poor people's life and livelihood.
Therefore, "we as advocates are skeptical on the resultant effect of a finalised trade pact base on reciprocal basis between the EU and West Africa, as negotiation progresses into economic partnership agreements", he said.
The Governor described the proposed agreements as a threat to the giant economic development strides that the country (Gambia) has seen in recent years which, he said, is principally based on the sound and prudent management of domestic and customs-generated income.
This, he said, will unfortunately be completely incapacitated by the coming into force of the proposed trade agreements.
He said that the least developed countries are seen to be organised and fragmented into blocs based on the regions.
"African Union (AU) can deduce that the European Union is out to divide and rule us so that they can achieve their objectives on the EPA", the Governor said.

15 States Public Sector Forum

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-A three-day workshop for the Civil Service in West African states was held from 15 to 17 March 2010 at the Paradise Suites Hotel, Kololi. The forum gathered participants from 5 West African countries and was held under the theme "Performance and Results-Based Management in the African Agencies - Implementation Strategies, Challenges and Practical Solutions".
The forum was organised jointly by African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development (CAFRAD), the Islamic Research and Training Institute (ORTI), the Personnel Management Office (PMO) in the Gambia, and the Management Development Institute (MDI).
Dr. Njogu Bah the Secretary General and head of the civil service told the participants that the forum had come at the right time, as it coincided with the execution of the Civil Service Reform Programme approved by President Yahya Jammeh.
According to Dr. Bah, the Gambia government recognised the role of the civil service in national development, and that the Gambian civil service must undergo reforms that will transform it into an organisation that enables the government to deliver.
Mr. Bah noted that the PRSP II recognised the attainment of the goals of Vision 2020 and that the country's medium term plan depends to a large extent on the performance of public sector institutions.
He stated that a public service culture in modern times requires values of fair play, efficiency and accountability.
"Without this mindset, and without a commitment to professional standards, resource management, resource mobilization, and social interventions, reforms and development cannot be effectively executed for efficiency service delivery.
"My own commitment to the theme of this workshop is immeasurable, given my critical task of ensuring that public servants are effective and are accountable in the execution of their duties", he added.
Dr. Bah commended CAFRAD for its support in training public servants, adding that such capacity building will remain a key factor in the priority projects for civil service reforms in the country.
He urged all institutions to work out a framework for an efficient bureaucracy and management and to target sound training programs and sensitisation on the culture of performance and results-based management.
The Permanent Secretary PMO and chairman of the MDI board of governors, Omar G Sallah, said the theme of the workshop is timely "at this stage of our socio-economic transformation" and called "for discipline and dedication to service and optimal utilisation of state resources to achieve our development aspirations".
In the private sector, he said, companies have the obligation to submit a balance sheet every year, showing their achievements and results, as measured against the overall goals and objectives of the company.
According to Mr. Sallah, such an obligation should also be essential for central government entities and parastatal organisations.
He pointed out that for public-funded international development institutions and donor agencies such as the Islamic Development Bank, USAID, OECD, UNDP, World Bank etc, accountability is required in all their operations, and there is regular evaluation of performance carried out to ensure project success.
These institutions now increasingly resort to methods and strategies of PRBM, he pointed out.
The Director-General MDI, Dr. Jainaba ML Kah, said that her institution is the main training institution in public sector management and administration, adding that it has been a major player in President Jammeh's Public Sector Reform Agenda.
Professor Muhammadou M.O. Kah, vice chancellor University of The Gambia (UTG), spoke of engaging "in the design of smarter organisations, re-architecture of institutional arrangements for performance and results-based management".
He also spoke at length about the importance of the workshop and its theme.

Friday, March 19, 2010

“Agenda 2011, a By Product of Our Reality” - Halifa Sallah

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA (MB)- Agenda 2011 is not about Halifa Sallah, NADD or PDOIS it is a by product of our reality and we hope that it will not just be a reality for The
Gambia but it will be a reality for every society which is in transition, the
Director of People Center for Social Science Research Civic Awareness and
Community Initiative has said.

Halifa Sallah was speaking to the local newspapers in an interview at the People Centre in Churchill’s Town on 3rd March 2010. “We have realised that in 2006 over six hundred and seventy thousand
(670, 000) voters were in the country and over four hundred thousand (400, 000)
voters did not vote for President Jammeh, over five hundred thousand (500, 000)
voters did not vote for the opposition. So here you have a crisis of government
we have the president who is not voted for by the vast majority of the people
in the country and we also have two opposition parties speaking for the people
who are not voted for by over five hundred thousand people,” Halifa Sallah

Sallah noted that his realisation is that we have a crisis of multy party system whatsoever crisis, we also have a crisis of political anarchy and crisis of credibility, however he said his concern is that of

According to him, election is about people selecting from among themselves a person they can entrust their wealth and tax money to be use for their interest. People will be affiliated whether you like it or not
somebody is going vote for somebody who will take charge of your nation,
somebody who is going to make laws for you.

He pointed out that somebody may administer or mal-administer and when they mal-administer it affects you, so if they abuse authority it affects you and in that respect people should be genuinely be
concerned about elections, because this is the opportunity you have as
sovereign citizens to determine who should manage your affairs.

“So in this respect I see it necessary for each of us to do whatever we can to address this crisis of credibility. You cannot bring political parties together and say be thinking this way or do that, it is sovereign,
we have tried it in NADD but before we even reach the stage of primary NADD had
collapsed,” he noted.

He stressed that this innovation (Agenda 2011) is to create a grand alliance of the people irrespective of party affiliation, so that the people themselves would be able to vote in a primary for one candidate who
would challenge the incumbent in the 2011 election, that individual would also
make commitments that he/she will only be there for a period of two to five

During the period of the transition, Sallah explained that the person will undertake to run a consensual government, meaning that, that person will have to consult those who are concern (the stakeholders) in
appointing ministers to their positions. If the person is to appoint a Minister
of Youth, he/she will have to consult the youth organisations to select six
people and say if you select anyone of these we are satisfied.

For the Minister of Labour, he said that the unions will have to select one from six people and the President will have to be are satisfied with their choice and the process continues in the appointment of a
Minister of Women Affairs, Minister of Justice etc.

“If you go to trade, Chamber of Commerce and other establishments, businesses will have to select among six people, the Minister of Information be selected by The Gambia Press Union, so any way we will build
The Gambia from a new start that will operate based on concession and we will
have the mandate to involve the people in making a Constitution that would reflect
the rights of the people for self determination that would guarantee their
civil, economic, and cultural values,” he highlighted.

He also stressed that person heading the transition (President) will also work towards building institutions that will ensure the Independence of the Judiciary and the National Assembly so that they would be
able serve as an oversight for the creation of trade unions civil societies,
etc so that they will also participate in governance, in implementation and
determining policies.

Halifa Sallah said that it is a believe that we can build this type of situations within the period of five years, for political parties to express their programme over the people, and after five years the person
(President) will not contest in the next election or support any other
contestant but will ensure a genuine
free and fair election. “My conviction is that The Gambia would be able to have
a new start that it has never before since the day we were declared
Independence, this would be the day of creating a democratic society where
sovereignty will reside in the people,” he told The Voice Newspaper.

He remarked thus; “that’s what the Agenda 2011 is all about, and what is been done now is to send a person that can communicate this to the people and that can be any volunteer, we will have almost if not more than
twenty thousand people who would agree to this agenda, before the end 2010, and
people who would agree to vote at the primaries for a candidate who may even be
a member of a former political party.”

“The ideal person will agree to preside over this transitional party, Agenda 2011 can be explained to the people by any volunteer, because it is initiated by a person that is legally responsible for
Agenda 2011. What is essential is that when the person understands and has full
ownership of it then that person matters no more,” the Sociologist is quoted as
telling The Voice Newspaper. VOL:2

Amnesty Report Indicts the Gambia Again

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Amnesty International Report 2009 that documents the state of human rights in 157 countries and territories around the world has made startling indictments on the Gambia. The Report catalogues unlawful arrest and detentions, enforced disappearances and killings, detentions without trials and the worsening state of freedom of expression in the Gambia, justice system, death penalty among others. Our Human Rights Watch anchorman Lamin Njie takes a look at the contents of the Report. On The Gambia The report stated that members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), army, military police and police unlawfully arrested and detained suspected opponents of the government. Among those unlawfully held were human rights defenders, journalists, former security personnel and opposition leaders. At least two journalists were forced to flee the country. Three judges were unconstitutionally removed by the President and then later reinstated. The government ignored a ruling by a regional court to release the missing journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh. Enforced disappearances and unlawful killings In July the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) ordered the Gambian government to release Chief Ebrima Manneh, a former reporter from the Daily Observer arrested in 2006, and pay him US$100,000.The government ignored the ruling and continued to deny that he was in their custody. The fate of Kanyiba Kanyie, an opposition supporter arrested in September 2006, remained unknown as the government continued to deny knowledge of his whereabouts. A former detainee who was held with Kanyiba Kanyie in Mile 2 prison in 2007 stated that he was released in early 2007, but there was no further news of him. The report further alleged that six other people remained disappeared, and it was feared that they may have been extra judicially executed. They were Momodou Lamin Nyassi, Ndongo Mboob and Buba Sanyang, arrested in 2006, and Marcia Jammeh, Haruna Jammeh and Jisacha Kujabi, arrested in 2005. There was investigation during 2008 into the fate of five men, including former NIA Director General Daba Marena, initially arrested in connection with the March 2006 foiled coup plot. The men were alleged to have escaped during a prison transfer in April 2006. It was suspected that they had been extra judicially executed the report alleged. According to the 2009 report, ECOWAS and the UN formed a team to investigate the death of 55 foreigners allegedly killed unlawfully by Gambian security forces in 2005.The victims were 40 Ghanaians, 10 Nigerians, two Senegalese, one Togolese, one Congolese and one Ivorian. No results emerged by the end of 2008 and no suspects were brought to justice. Detention without trial A number of people were held in long-term detention without trial. At least two people arrested in connection with the March 2006 coup plot remained in detention. Neither Alieu Lowe, held without charge, nor Hamadi Sowe, charged with concealment of treason, had been tried by the end of the year. At least six other people were held in detention without charge, some for more than four years: Ismaila Bajinka and Kebba Secka (former members of the NIA), army sergeant Sam Kambai, army corporal Ebrima Joof, presidential cook Ebou Jarju, and police officer Alfusainey Jammeh. At least 19 other people, including some foreign nationals from Senegal and Nigeria, were held without charge in Mile 2 prison maximum security cell, one for at least 12 years. Freedom of expression- journalists At least two journalists-Momodou Justice Darboe and Lamin Fatty- left the country following intimidation by the NIA and other government personnel. Journalist Yahya Dampha, Omar Bah, Pa Ousman Darboe, Musa Saidykhan, and Sulayman Makalo, previously in hiding in other West African countries, were granted asylum in Europe and the USA. Several journalists were arrested and detained without charge for longer than the 72 hours allowed by Gambian law, including journalists Dida Halake, Sam Obi, and Abdulgafari Oladimeji. Journalists Mam Sait Ceesay was released in February after being held for four months without charge. In August, Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist, was convicted of sedition in a trial that began in March 2007. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment with hard labour, but was allowed to pay a fine of 250,000 Dalasis (US$ 12,000) in lieu of imprisonment. Afterwards she left the country. The Today newspaper stopped publishing after the editor, Abdulhamid Adiamoh, a Nigerian, was convicted of failing to pay tax. He was also charged with sedition for writing about social conditions for children in the Gambia. At the end of 2008 the trial was continuing. In December a British couple, David and Fiona Fulton, who had been in living in the Gambia for nine years, were arrested and charged with sedition. The Independent newspaper’s premises remained under police surveillance and did not open for a second consecutive year. Justice system Three judges were unconstitutionally removed from office. High Court Justice B.Y.Camara and Justice Haddy Roche were dismissed in July by an order of the President, and Justice Naceesay Sallah-Wadda in September. No official reason was given for the removal of the judges and no consultation took place with the Judicial Service Commission. All three judges were reinstated before the end of the year. There were no developments in the unsolved murder of prominent journalist Deyda Hydara, killed in 2005 the report stated. Death penalty At the end of 2008, there were 15 people on death row. The 1997 Constitution required the National Assembly to carry out a constitutional review of the death penalty within 10 years, with a view to abolishing it. The National Assembly again failed to carry out this review. Tabara Samba, a Senegalese woman sentenced to death for the murder, last her case on appeal in October. In November a police officer on trial since 2007 was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people In a speech in May, President Yahya Jammeh threatened to expel or kill lesbian and gay people. After that speech, at least three Gambian and two Spanish men were arrested on suspicion of same sex sexual conduct. The government later retracted the President’s statement. Article 144 of Gambia’s 1965 Criminal Code criminalizes homosexual conduct as an “unnatural offence” and provides for a prison sentence of up to 14 years, contrary to Gambia’s international human rights obligations the report concluded.

EPAs Not Answer For African Integration, Says AATG Director

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-Ms Dede Amanor-Wilks, ActionAid International Director for West and Central Africa, has said that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are not the answer for African integration. She was speaking at a day long sensitisation workshop for National Assembly members (NAMS) on the current situation of the negotiations on the EPAs.
The programme was organsied by the National Youth Association for Food Security (NaYAFS) in collaboration with the Alliance for Human Security (AHS) at the Atlantic Hotel in Banjul on 25 February 2010.
According to the AATG boss, “Africans should say ‘No’ to EPAs in their current form”. Africa “Must Unite” she declared, but this should be under the slogan “Africa unite, but not sign or give our ears to the European Union on the issue of EPAs negotiations”.
“Let us make the slogan a reality through our daily interventions and outlook”, she continued.
“Many of us who work in the civil society sector strongly believe that the greatest idea on African unification exist not at the level of the African Union, but in partnership with other sectors”, he added.
According to Dede Amanor-Wilks, 50 years ago, when the bulk of African countries were celebrating their independence, the first generation of African leaders were inspired by a project to unite Africa.
But “today we find it is the European Union that says it wants to unite Africa”, she said.
Ms Amanor-Wilks asserted that many Africans are fearful that “if the signing of the EPAs in its current form happens, then the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries will sink”.
“Some of us fear that signing EPAs will derail all the efforts made at the level of institutions such as ECOWAS to achieve integration, and we must acknowledge that ECOWAS has gone further than most regional econoic communities (RECS) to achieve integration”.
“Is it genuinely in Africa’s interest to sign the EPAs in its current form?” She asked. “Is it in the interest of the bulk of African producers and traders?” she further asked.
“Even worst, is it just a handful of European producers and traders located in Africa that will stand to benefit?”
She went on, “we can be sure that any integration that the European Union is proposing must be in Europe’s interest”, she told NAMS.
The African continent, according to Dede Amanor-Wilks, has been divided by six European languages, adding that this is a lot less than the thousands of African languages “we continue to use everyday in Africa”.
The problem was that these six European language groups brought identification with diverse external interest groups. The EPAs in its current form has also divided us into regions’, she further explained.
This division, she said, has made it difficult for Africa to unite, but the European Union was formed and Europe is united.
According to Dede Amanor-Wilks, the “free movement of people is one of the achievements we can be proud of in ECOWAS”.
However, she pointed out, this must be a reality not only for members of the elite, but also for “the thousands of small traders who cross our borders everyday”.
The AATG official also said that the Europeans’ interest in having the EPAs signed is not intended to block the economic partnerships being developed with China and other emerging Asian economic powers, but for “our division”.
By grouping together and integrating key aspects of our economic and social organisation, “we can say ‘No’ to the EPAs in their current form”, she declared.

The Legendary Scholar, Traveller And Hero Of The Tijania Sect

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The 26th of February 2010 marked another year of the “Mawlud Nabi” or the birth of the Prophet. For this reason, Muslims from all parts of the country gather at various places to mark the occasion.
In Senegal, one of the places of attraction to all in the sub-region is Tiwawone; it is one of the centres of the Tijaniya Sect. In this place is found the descendants of the re-known Imam Alhagi Malick Sey and his brothers.
Among the great scholars of the Tijaniya sect was the re-known scholar, traveler and hero, Sheikh Omar Futee Faal. Sheikh Omar Futee Faal was a famous scholar, who travelled widely to convert people to the religion of Islam through preaching and teachings or other wonderful and mysterious deeds.
In the Gambia, legend has it that he had visited some people and places and had left behind after his departure some wonderful signs or deeds, that still remain fresh in the minds of the people still living.
It is still narrated that while crossing at one of the river crossings in Niani, , Sheikh Omar Futee Faal happened to meet the grandfather of the former head of state, Sir Dawda Jawara, who assisted him to cross the river. It was narrated that, after reaching the opposite bank, , Sheikh Omar Futee Faal prayed for him and predicted to him that his son will be recognised throughout the Gambia, and that his son’s son or one of his grandsons would one day rule the land. This was all fulfilled, because everyone in the Gambia must have known or heard about the late Alhagie Almami Jawara, even before his son become the former “Gambian head of State.
The other places that Sheikh Omar Futee Faal visited in the Gambia were Banjul, Dobson Street “Fayen” where he met the grandfather of the present Imam Muntaha Fye. Legend has it that imam Fye’s grandfather showed much hospitality and lavished gifts at the great sheikh, who in return pray for the advancement of his sons and grandchildren.
At Gunjur, Sheikh Omar Futee Faal stayed at the coastal place known as “Sanimentereng” to the local people, who feared that the place was occupied by evil spirits.
The inhabitants told him about these evil spirits, and that he was not to go near the place. But Sheikh Omar Futee Faal decided to stay at the very spot where everyone feared to stay.
News & Report met with one Imam Sarr of Nema Kunku (Wasulung) and this was what he had to say:
Imam Sarr: He was a great Sheikh, who travelled greatly around the sub-region. He was born in Hallwarr in the southern part of Senegal at Bondu, near the border between Senegal and Mali.
He was gifted in the knowledge of the Koran, even when he was a child. Legend had it that when his father took him to begin his learning of the Koran, his tutor thought the boy was too young to learn, for he did believe that he could even count. Therefore, he told his father that the boy could not count, and as his father was about to depart, the young man asked the tutor to recount after him.
The tutor would count from one and he counted after him, but when the tutor wanted to continue on from one to two, he would always ask him (the tutor) to explain the meaning of each number before continuing to the next.
This the tutor would tell him that he did not know, and the child (Sheikh Omar Futee Faal) would then explain the meaning of each number to him, which left the tutor spellbound.
At Gunjur, he was said to have resided outside the village at the coastal and rocky area known as “Sanneh Mentereng” by the local people who feared to go near that place.
Legend had it that when one of the inhabitants of the village at Gunjur told him not to go near the place, he laughed and told him that it was the right place for him to stay and worship Allah.
It was there he stayed for all the period he was in Gunjur. It was after he left that thousands of people began to go to the spot to pay their homage to the great Sheik.
Much has been said of his travels, when he was passed through the Kombos. It was said that during one of his travels, he happened to meet a group of men at the village bantaba, and asked them to help him with some water. They ignored him, and he continued on his way and met a group of women at the village well, who assisted him and gave him water.
He prayed for them to be prosperous, and that their descendants after them would be respected and anything they do would be of great success.
Sheikh Omar Futee Faal then departed from Gunjur and returned to his native home village in Futa, a place called “Ban Jagara”. On this place was a cave under a huge rock, he had told many of the people around the area that nobody would see his grave.
He therefore entered the cave and to this day, people of the area do hear the sound of his prayer beads in the dark cave at “Ban Jagara.

Workshop on EPAs For CSOs, Media

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The National Youth Association for Food Security (NAYAFS) in collaboration with National Alliance for Food Security on 23 February 2010 at the Baobab Holiday and Resort jointly organised a day-long sensitisation workshop on the Economic Partnership Agreementd (EPAs).
The sensitisation workshop brought together civil society organsiations, media and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to sensitize them on the possible effects of the EPAs on lives and livelihoods, especially of rural communities.
Alagie Kebbeh the Director of NAYAFS speaking at the official opening ceremony said the “right to food” and “trade justice” are among the key program areas that NAYAFS embark on to support and empower the poor and socially excluded.
According to him, international trade agreements and rules continue to affect millions of poor people’s life and livelihood daily in the world, including The Gambia.
He said that as the negotiation process on the EPAs is going on, “we as trade justice advocates continue to be skeptical on the results of a finalized trade package based on reciprocal basis between the European Union (EU) and West Africa”.
The propose agreement, he continued, poses a threat to the giant economic development strides that the country (The Gambia) has seen in recent years, which was primarily based on the sound and prudent management of domestic and customs generated income.
“If the EPAs come into force, it will unfortunately incapacitate the country’s revenue generation” Mr. Kebbeh added.
He revealed that the pressure from the EU is intensifying daily on some of the least developed countries (LDCs), which prompted NaYAFS, as a matter of urgency, to work to unite all stakeholders, that is, policy makers, law makers, CSOs, farmers, private sector operators and the media to engage in a dialogue on the state of affairs of the negotiations on the EPAs that lies ahead.
Mr. Kebbeh told participants that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have signed the EPAs, but as an interim measure.
Mr. Kebbeh said an agreement relating to the EPAs was signed in Cotonou on 20 June 2000. He added that EPAs seek to establish a new WTO (World Trade Organisation) compatible trading arrangement that would progressively remove barriers of trade between the EU and the African, Carribean and Pacific (ACP) countries, building on the regional integration initiative of ACP states.
The new partnership agreement called the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, according to him, replaced the Lome Convention.
Under this agreement, he said, ACP countries had free non-reciprocal access to the EU market for nearly all products and for a wide range of agricultural products.
Mr. Kebbeh further noted that the deadline for signing the EPAs between the EU and the ACP countries was supposed to be on 31 December 2007, but it has never happened.
“EPAS will not afford the benefits of promoting regional integration, since EPAS will be negotiated between the EU and various regional groups of the ACP regions, such as ECOWAS for West African countries.
Mr. Kebbeh saluted the efforts of the CSOs and the West African negotiators for their efforts in speaking with one voice for the EPAS not to be signed. So far, the 16 ECOWAS countries including Mauritania did not sign, according to Mr. Kebbeh.
He told participants that the media and the CSOs need to strengthen partnership at all times, and asked media practitioners to always knock on the doors of experts to get information.
“You also need to make research, engage in reporting on trade issues, give prominence to trade in your coverage; it is a very important sector. You also need to build your capacity be conversant with subjects you write on”, he pointed out.
For the CSO, Mr. Kebbeh said “you need to burn the midnight candle, read hard every day and any document that you lay hands on, because you are always in a debate with experts”.
“We the CSOs are not enemies to government but need to take on a pro-active role; we are not looking for any interest, but our collective interest. That is what we the CSOs advocate for, and we don’t want to engage in any confrontation with governments”, Mr. Kebbeh added.
He spoke of all kinds of skepticism about the EPAs, and that this is not only in the ACP countries, but also in Europe, concerning trade negotiations.
“Skepticisms have been expressed in several quarters. The end of trade asymmetries will bring about many serious consequences, for which The Gambia is ill equipped, that is, the lowering of customs and budget revenue, competition with imported products, and so on.
The “Right to Food” Manger ActionAid The Gambia, Buba Khan, thanked the CSOs “for keeping the momentum on” in the EPA negotiations between the EU and ACP countries.
He also hailed the West African negotiators for coming up with a text expressing their point of view, saying that “before it was a framework but now it is our own original text based on negotiations on the EPAs”.
According to Mr. Khan, at the time of speaking, there was no deadline on EPAs, that is, for ACP countries to sign before it elapses.
“But still we are pushing, pushing everyday regarding the agreements” Mr. Khan said, adding that it is important for the communities at the grassroots to understand the impacts of EPAs.
This was followed by a question and answer session. The programme was the start of a series of programmes on the EPAS, including a caravan.

Grand Expedition Programme

By Wally Bah
The Gambia held Award helpers Association (GAHA) in partnership with the national youth parliament, today on the 14th February 2008. Organised a press Bruiting at the president awards Hall in Bakau.
The pennies of this press bruiting is to Hash back peoples mind about the Gaambia gold award holders association expeditions, which is to be held at Gunjur upper Basic school from Thursday the 21st of February to Sunday 24th February 2008.
The grand expedition will attracted five hundred participants both from the Gambia gold award helpers association and the national youth parliament. According Alhagie Joof of the Gambia gold award holder’s association hinted that main objectives of this grand expedition is to create, strengthen and develop sustainable collaboration and partnership between the various youths organisation.
In the field of youth development and as well as to encourage young people to adopt and, to develop the lift of technical skills. Joof added that at the end of the active participation, the young person is awarded with an international medal and certificate of recognition worldwide. Citing that these award, are in three categories namely Bronze, silver, and Gold, in which he said is the highest award deceived. Mr. Joof recalled that the Gambia gold award helpers was established in the year 1990, but later Mr. Joof committed that it meat on realisation in 1997. Since then he added the association has promoted in principles, for participating in national activities and has also contributed through its experience volunteers to community initiatives that has value to lives of the local people, he stressed. For his part Lamin F. Bojang, the speaker of national youth parliament said once a young person challenges him or herself in order to adventure, Discover and achieved signed the aim is discovering and adventuring his or her talents and potentials which he said are reprevequiste for productivetly and self reliance as well as self substance. He further noted that these achievements are recognizing by fully participarting in the baic mandarety sections which are the conrnerstones of the award programme. The disclosed, the awards are not prices but an individual achievenment which goes a long way to benefit the individual and the larger scerety , Mr. Speaker recognised that the national youth parliament is mandated to in eulcate responsible citizenship in the minds and to bridge the intergenerectional gap between the young and old. Base on he went on a working team which is set up to coordinate and facilitates all the necessary arrangement for this memorable evant, he conclude. In his works Mr. Ousman Sarr of national youth parliament haiked the two organisation for the cordial relationship they exist betweent the two. He dewell on by saying that this a clear manitestation, and challenge them to always manitest in the interest of young people alarge and also come together in sharing good thinking in term of intergration at the national level, Mr Sarr was given to assert that a we should not wait politician to bringles togther,” he said. Mr. Sarr also caution them by stating that he want to see the prosper of this two institution, and newealed that young people should be given the picture of now violence, and observed that youth should be respectal and obedicat he conclude. Some of the executive members also express similar remarks.

Press Club on Basic Journalism

Gambia College Press Club Benefits From Training

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Press Club of the Gambia College recently benefitted from a day-long training session on writing skills, ethics of journalism and the good values of a journalist held at the Gambia College campus.
Addressing press club members of different school Mr Sam Sarr, The Editor Foroyaa News paper said that it an important step and move for them to develop their writing skills as writing required skills. According to the Editor, a journalist to not first write astray and submit it to an editor for publication but need to know the skills in writing.
He added that to form a press club in schools and to organise training is very important as it improves ones writing. Mr. Sarr recalled that during their days there was no press clubs for them to benefit from training on journalism but today if there is press clubs in school many of you who want to be journalist can start journalism in your schools through writing articles and stories that are happening in schools, as to be future journalists.
Editor Foroyaa, pointed out that in the Gambia there is no school of journalist and many of the journalists after completing their senior secondary school to be recited as journalist always benefits from in house training at their media house.
He added that the well performing journalist are all products of high schools in which re-expressed that some are members of press clubs. “Some journalists lacks skills as of how to father information’s and how to write a report.”
He went on to say that as a journalists one need to develop skills of writing information and for his/her information to be published.
As a journalist is the print you write for your readership and the electronic you broadcast for your audience or viewers, so it is very good for a journalist to balance and fair. He further stated that” if you don’t publish some thing that is relevant you will lose readership as readers always looks for relevant news. And for the broadcast if you dot broadcast something that is relevant your audience will scoff off your radio station and tune another station. He urged both print and electronic media to publish and broadcast relevant information’s that is important to lives of the readership and advance. “As journalist he advised they must be relevant as relevant is number one in writing and their information’s must also be relevant.
On captions, Mr Sarr said that every story has its own caption, and in the print media the readers first look at the caption and if the caption attract the some only read the caption and know what is contain in the story but some they read the whole story. Editor Foroyaa, added that some journalists are not skill full in five captions to their stories as some of the captions do not match with the story.
According to him, a caption must be cooperage with the story, the content should reflect with the caption so as to attract mater
As a journalist he said caption should be first given to the story then it can guide one when writing the story because” you will know what to write and what not to write”. Do not write a story without given a caption; first select the caption so as to gets guiding points. He advised. He added that journalist must be balanced when writing their stories and not to be bias. A good journalist also applied the 5w+H when writing his /her story.
A journalist should not inject his/her opinion in a story, a journalist needs to five two sides of the story to make the story balance.
On photograph Sarr said, it is also important for a story to have a photograph as some people it is the photograph that tell them the story.
He added that a photograph is sometimes important to others as they cannot read the whole story but with the photograph it can tell them and he added that at the bottom of the small.
On background information, he said a good journalist find out background information about a story.
Buttressing on responsible journalism Mr. Sarr added that journalist must be objective write truth and be accurate and what you publish must be in public interest. Mr. Ebrima Jatta, a report with Daily observer spoke on Ethic of journalism, Yerro Mballow of the point talked on good writing while Mamadou Edrisa Njie of The Gambia News and Report Magazine talked on responsible journalism, Modou Nyang President Nusrat Press at spoke at length the training was chaired by Musa Fofana information minister of Gambia college and a cross section of students of Gambia college, Nusrat Press club, Mindaw senior secondary school, Brothrog senior secondary school.

NAMs Hear Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Process

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM and E) is an approach which involves local people, development agencies and policy makers deciding together, which can reveal valuable lessons and improve accountability.
This was explained by Yusupha F.J. Dibba a lecturer at the University of The Gambia to National Assembly Members (NAMS).
Mr. Dibba was presenting a paper on participatory monitoring and evaluation to NAMS on 13 February 2010 at a workshop held at Jerma Beach Hotel.
The National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) in collaboration with the UNDP organised the workshop to build the capacity of NAMS.
According to Mr. Dibba, adoption of the participatory approach to development provides an opportunity to all stakeholders, adding that it enables their institutions to participate effectively in defining, analysing and monitoring policies and programmes that were designed to address development outcomes.
Participation in all its forms, have been proven to enhance citizen engagement in the socio-economic development of any country.
“It is found to increase transparency in decision-making, improve accountability, promote ownership and, most important of all, it ensures sustainability”.
Evaluation, he explained, on the other hand mainly aims to determine the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability of a programme or project.
According to the UTG lecturer, evaluation is mostly undertaken selectively to answer specific questions to guide decision-makers and or programme managers, and to provide information on whether underlying assumptions used in programme development were valid, what worked and what did not work and why, he stated.
However, monitoring and evaluation is a powerful public management tool that can be used to improve the way governments and organisations achieve results.
He added, “monitoring is a continuous management function that aims primarily to provide managers and main stakeholders with regular feedback.
“It also enables them to identify early indications of progress and constraints impeding the achievement of intended results”.
According to Mr. Dibba, monitoring helps keep track of the actual performance or situation against what was planned or expected, according to predetermined standards and targets.
Therefore, it is a challenging process for all concerned since it encourages people to examine their assumptions about what constitutes progress, and to face the contradictions and conflicts that can emerge, said Mr. Dibba.
PM and E is being used by some governments, organisations and non-governmental organisations for many proposes such as project appraisal, project planning, community action planning, well being ranking, poverty assessment, monitoring and evaluation.
In The Gambia, he revealed, participatory processes have been given prominence since the beginning of the early 1990s as seen in the work of ActionAid the Gambia and late 1990s by SPACO, DOSH, Community Development and other NGOs in their development interventions.
“It is also quite often used in the sub region and beyond by many countries such as Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, to name a few”.
Explaining the strengths of the approach, Mr. Dibba noted that it increases transparency of decision making, improves accountability, promotes ownership, improves sustainability, enhances empowerment processes, increases good governance and promotes knowledge transfer.
On its weakness, he said, among others, that “it cannot be used for generalisation, and that if the selection of participants does not cover a wide range of stakeholders, the information so collected may not reflect the perception of the whole population”.
Mr. Dibba said there has been an evolution in the field of monitoring and evaluation since the 1970s, involving a movement away from the traditional implementation-based approach towards the new participatory monitoring and evaluation approach.
According to him, development organisations need to know how effective their efforts have been” so as “to ensure that informed decisions are made”.
He further explained that PM and E is an approach which involves local people, development agencies and policy makers deciding together how progress should be measured. The PM and E approach can reveal valuable lessons and improve accountability, he added.
However, it is a challenging process for all concerned since it encourages people to examine their assumptions about what constitutes progress, and to face the contradictions and conflicts that can emerged.
PM and E, Mr. Dibba continued, is not just a matter of using participatory techniques within a conventional M and E setting. Participation, the UTG lecturer pointed out, is the process through which stakeholders influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations and access to public goods and services.
According to him, inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts are the level at which PM and E occurs.
PM and E has emerged because of a recognition of the limitations of the conventional approach.
“It is attracting interest from many quarters since it offers new ways of assessing and learning from change that are more inclusive. It is also more in line with the views and aspirations of those most directly affected”.
According to Mr. Dibba, it provides an opportunity for development organisations to focus better on their ultimate goal of improving the lives of the target beneficiaries, adding that it allows people to celebrate success, and learn from failures.
For those involved, it can also be a very empowering process, since it puts them in charge, helps develop skills, and shows that their views count.
This shift in thinking has been promoted by the following as the principles of PM and E, that is, Participatory, Negotiation, Learning and Flexibility.
The tools of PM and E, he outlined, are Participatory Rural Appraisal (PPA), Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA), Strategic Planning Process (SPP), the Logical Framework Approach (LFA), Citizen Report Card (CRC), Community Scorecard (CSC), Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM and E), and Participatory Learning for Action (PLA).
On who plans and manages the process, he said it is local people, project staff and other stakeholders often helped by a facilitator.


NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-In an effort to improve and extend the country’s telecommunications system to the sub-region and beyond, the Gambia Telecommunications Company Limited (GAMTEL), in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications, Information and Information Technology, will in mid February 2010 commission its latest project called “Cross Gambia Project”. This project, being one of GAMTEl’s major accomplishments in the year 2009, will cost GAMTEL around Euro 1.2 million when completed.
It is a joint venture between GAMTEL and SONATEL in Senegal conceived in April 2008 and the contract was signed on 20th May 2009.

The Cross Gambia Project upon completion will extend the fibre from Dakar through Kaolack, Karang, Barra, Banjul, Serrekunda, Yundum, Brikama to Seleti in Casamance where it terminates on the SONATEL fibre network.
The project will provide an alternative link using fibre to the existing Basse-Welingara fibre link, which was implemented in 1996. This essential project was awarded to Alcatel Lucent a French contractor based in France on a contract signed on the 25th June 2009 and makes a provision of 24 pairs of fibre in Barra to enable Gamtel to run a new fibre Network throughout the length of the North Bank.

With the implementation of this project, GAMTEL will be able to conveniently implement the proposed North Bank fibre from Banjul across the river to Barra and all the way to Basse. Also, this project, when completed, will allow Gamtel to be provided with STM 4 capacity to secure the South Bank traffic whilst we upgrade, replace and migrate to a Next Generation Network (NGN), which was planned to be implemented in 2010

The project objectives, among others, will consolidate GAMTEL/SONATEL bilateral traffic; provide GAMTEL with redundancy, thereby eliminating the serious traffic disruption experienced whenever the fibre is cut. It would also enable GAMTEL to increase Internet capacity to meet national internet bandwidth requirements as and when required.

Finally, GAMTEL and the Ministry of Communications, Information and Information Technology wish to extend gratitude and appreciation to the President, His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alh. Dr, Yahya A J J Jammeh for the continued support of The Government of the Gambia. We also wish to extend gratitude and appreciation to the Gambia Ports Authority, the National Roads Authority, the Gambia Navy, NAWEC and other stakeholders for their support and cooperation in the implementation of this project.

Workshop On Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS In PRSP

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The National Aids Services Organisation (NASO) on 16 and 17 February 2010 held a sensitization workshop on Mainstreaming HIV and AIDS into the PRSP.
The workshop was held at the Paradise Suites Hotel, and brought together government officials, representatives of non governmental organisations, and UN agencies, among others.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, the Director of the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), Alieu Jammeh, said there is a need to mainstream HIV related priorities into the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
This will help to create an “enabling policy and resource environment” for an effective response to the epidemic, thus achieving synergy between diverse interventions across many sectors, and ensuring adequate financing for HIV and AIDS, he added.
According to Mr. Jammeh, poverty reduction strategies are becoming the main development planning instruments in many countries, determining national priorities and domestic, as well as external resource allocation.
This is the main reason for integrating, so as to ensure that resources are allocated to programmes aimed at reversing the epidemic and managing its impact.
Therefore, the need for capacity building of NASO to effectively undertake oversight role on all HIV/AIDS matters, and resources mobilization and coordination from governments and the donor community at the international and local levels in order to implement HIV/AIDS activities is important, he added.
The capacity building of NASO, in turn, creates the supportive environment that would ensure prevention, care, support and impact mitigation that are incorporated into national development plans including PRSP, national budget allocations and sectoral development plans and programmes.
“Sensitising NASO would also ensure that multi-sectoral strategies and financial plans address the epidemic effectively and efficiently; strengthen and develop legislation, regulations and other measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and members of vulnerable groups such as orphana and other vulnerable children”.
Furthermore, it would create and ensure a supportive environment for local and national organisations to expand and strengthen partnerships, coalitions and networks in fighting HIV and AIDS and the facilitation of public participation, he stated.
Mr. Jammeh asserted that capacity building of NASO will also foster stronger collaboration with development partners and build innovative partnerships between members of NASO with civil society organisations within the country and abroad in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The impact of HIV and AIDS is unique, Mr. Jammeh continued, adding that “AIDS kills adults in the prime of their lives, thus depriving families, communities, and entire nations of their young and most productive people”.
In addition, AIDS has added a heavy disease burden in poor countries. The HIV and AIDS epidemic is deepening and spreading poverty, reversing human development, worsening gender inequalities, eroding the capacity of governments to provide essential services, reducing labour productivity, and hampering pro-poor growth, declared the NAS Director.
In his keynote address, the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Abdou Touray (in a statement read on his behalf by Ms Juldeh Ceesay) emphasised the importance of the training session, noting that the workshop intends to widen the scope of the participants’ understanding and their key role in mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in all public actions at the central, regional and grassroots levels.
Mr. Touray added that, in spite of numerous public actions and remarkable gains, “HIV and AIDS “still remain both a global and national challenge to all our development efforts, and a country like the Gambia has no option but to give it the much needed attention it deserves”.
Quoting from recent UNAIDS reports, the NPC Director General stated that HIV and AIDS is on the decline. He added that the results of the 2007 sentinel survey in The Gambia revealed a dramatic reduction in the prevalence level of about one hundred percent from 2.8 percent to 1.4 for HIV-1 in 2006, whereas HIV-2 dropped to 0.5 percent from 0.9 percent in 2007.
Prevalence rates have declined in almost all towns, reducing from 4.8 percent in 2006 to 1.3 in 2007 in Brikama and similarly in Sibanor, Farafenni, Essau and Basse where HIV declined significantly in 2007, he further revealed.
This, he went on, can be attributed largely to positive behavioral change and, most importantly, President Yahya Jammeh’s intervention with his HIV and AIDS treatment programme.
Despite such gains registered in the national response to HIV and AIDs, Mr. Touray said, there is still an apparent gap between knowledge and behavior change, as well as insufficient knowledge of the key drivers of the epidemic.
According to Mr. Touray, mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in development plans and the PRSP in both high and low prevalence countries, can reduce the impact and spread of the epidemic and induce economic growth and human development.

Madrassas Boos Lower and Upper Basic Education Enrolment

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-At the level of the lower basic schools, for the period 2001/2002 – 2006/2007, madrassas (Islamic Arabic schools) saw an increase in enrolment from 157,544 to 220,432 pupils or a gross enrolment ratio from 82 percent to 92 percent.
In the area of upper basic education, there was a rapid expansion, between 2001/2002 and 2006/2007, with enrolment increasing from 42,094 to 66,025 translating into growth in gross enrolment ratio from 43 percent to 65 percent.
This growth in enrolment represents an average annual growth rate of 15 percent, which exceeds the target of 12.7 percent. However, the period 2005/2006 to 2006/2007 also witnessed a drop in gross enrolment ratio for boys from 62 percent to 60 percent whilst that of the girls increased from 56 percent to 57 percent.
The madrassas’s enrolment formed 10 percent and 15 percent of the total enrolment in 2001/2002 and 2006/2007 respectively, at that level in the Education sector.
During the same period, the gross enrolment ratio for boys showed a decrease from 85 percent in 2001/2002 to 82 percent in 2004/2005, but an increase to 92 percent in 2006/2007, whereas the gross enrolment ratio for girls registered an appreciable increase from 80 percent to 95 percent.
This information was found in the Education Sector 2008-2011 Medium Term Plan for the Republic of The Gambia.
According to the report, the madrassa support program consists of providing English teachers, instructional materials and participation in the school-feeding program to registered madrassas that synchronize their programs with the national curriculum.
This program, the report added, has been highly successful noting that about 149 registered madrassas participate in the program, double the number initially planned.
The Medium Term report further stated that between 2004-2006/2007, madrassas accounted for 65 percent of the enrolment increase in primary schools. The madrassas now account for an estimated 15 percent of lower basic school enrolment, up from 10 percent a decade earlier, and the majority of this increase was in the madrassas that have synchronized with the national curriculum, the report added.
The report explained that the madrassa program has made a particularly significant impact in regions 5 and 6 where, between 2002 – 2006, the madrassas boosted the lower basic gross enrolment ratio from 66 percent to 87 percent in region 5 and from 47 percent to 73 percent in region 6.
However, “the program was not without hitches”, many English teachers posted to the madrassas were confronted with an unfamiliar environment, and were concerned about mobility, said the 2008-2011 report.
To address this problem, it stated that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education switched from directly posting teachers to providing the financial resources to the madrassas to recruit their own teachers.
Again, as a result of this program, madrassas are sponsoring their untrained Arabic Islamic teachers to enroll in the Gambia College teacher certification program, thereby facilitating horizontal and upward mobility.
According to the report, given the important role the madrassas play in providing education, the medium term plan will aim to harmonize grant-in-aid policies and strengthen support and supervision.
In addition, the EGRA and NAT will also be introduced in the madrassas – Grade 9 and Grade 12 examinations will be standardized and administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
The report pointed out that the core text-books of Mathematics, Science and Social Environmental Studies will be translated in Arabic, and will be provided together with English textbooks to all official madrassas.
On efficiency measures, it said that in terms of rates of completion, repetition and drop out, the sector has witnessed relatively high progression and completion rates and low repetition.
According to the 2005/2006 MICS (multi indicator cluster survey) there is an estimated 96 percent of an entering cohort reaching grade 5, whilst the net lower basic completion rate averaged 80 percent.
In an attempt to attain the access goals within resource constraints, the report noted that the sector targeted an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) from 30:1 to 45:1 through the expansion of double shifting and multi-grade teaching.
The results of these interventions have indicated success in schools and increasing multi-grade teaching as a strategy in more than 50 schools, particularly in rural areas.
On objectives, it explained that in order to sustain the gains registered thus for, and remain on track to universalize lower basic education by 2015, the following targets have been set to be achieved during the period of the MTP (2008-2012):
- To increased admission rate from 10 percent to 125 percent
- Increase lower basic school (LBS) gross enrolment ratio (including official madrassas) from 91.4 percent to 101.9 percent.
- Reduce repetition rate in LBS from 5.8 percent to 3.6 percent
- Reduce dropout rate in LBS from 4.1 percent to 2.8 percent.
- Increase the transition rate (from grade 6 to 7) from 88 percent to 90 percent.
- Increase share of enrolment for boys in LBS from 49 percent to 50 percent.
- Increase achievement scores for girls at all levels to catch up with boys (NAT, EGRA etc)
- Focus on reading as a key foundation competency.
- Introduce national languages to ensure early literacy of children.

Concerning challenges, the report acknowledged that there has been considerable access in basic education, adding, “it should be noted that such expansion has been in favour of girls due to the worrisome drop in enrolment for boys”.
In addition, the school places are in urban and peri-urban areas.
However, as remote villages in rural areas still show significant increases in the school-age population, any expansion of access during the period of the MTP will have to address the needs of these two distinct populations.
Hence, additional places in both lower and upper basic schools will have to be created at an accelerated pace.
This is the enrolment projection from 2010-2011 as highlighted by the MTP for LBS level:

Grade 1 in 2010 - 58,575 and in 2011 - 62,109
Grade 2 in 2010 - 50,845 and 2011 - 54,243
Grade 3 in 2010 – 45,348 and 2011- 48,410
Grade 4 in 2010 - 41,017 and 2011 – 44,106
Grade 5 in 2010 – 36,326 and 2011 – 39,464
Grade 6 in 2010 - 32,136 and 2011 - 35,046.

For the Upper Basic Schools (UBS) in 2010 and 2011:

Grade 7 in 2010 - 31,621 and in 2011 - 32,185
Grade 8 in 2010 - 31,086 and in 2011 - 30,972
Grade 9 in 2010 - 29,316 and in 2011 – 29,807

(Source: Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education Simulation Model 008)

In addition to the UBS enrolment projections, the following targets have been set under the MTP:
- Increase UBS GER (including official madrassas) from 60 percent to 69 percent.
- Reduce repetition rate in UBS from 4.7 percent to 3.0 percent.
- Maintain dropout rate in UBS at 2.0 percent.

In order to deliver the above targets, the following are outlined by the MTP: a school environment conducive for teaching and learning i.e. fencing of schools, provision of clean and safe drinking water and provision of separate toilet facilities for boys and girls.
Also improved quality of teaching, that is, training and retention of teachers in the system, training of teachers on special needs education, training of official madrassa teachers and training of teachers on local teaching aids production.
It also includes cluster-based monitoring, increased learning opportunities in basic education, adequate quality and quantity of teaching and learning materials, relevant and up-to-date curriculum for basic education and improved management of schools, that is, community participation and improvement of pedagogic leadership.

Sub-regional Meeting Adopts Banjul Action Plan 2010

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The sub-regional meeting of heads of meteorological services in West Africa, as well as representatives of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the meteorological agency of the Kingdom of Spain ended at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on 5th February, with the adoption of the Banjul Action Plan 2010.
News and Report interviewed Bernard Gomez, permanent representative of The Gambia at the WMO, on the Banjul Action Plan 2010 and the deliberations of the 1 to 5 February meeting of Directors of West African national meteorological hydrological services (NMHS) in Banjul.
According to Mr. Gomez, the first two days of the meeting centered on resource mobilization for the sub-region meteorological services.
He added that some countries in the sub region are finding it difficult to mobilize resources for their operations, adding that "we really need resources to do our work effectively, but lack of enough resources is making our work difficult every day".
It was against this background that during the first two days, they deliberated on resource mobilization, he added, pointing out that some of the poorest countries are finding it difficult to mobilize resources, including the Gambia.
According to Mr. Gomez, meteorological services in West Africa are not having support like other sectors, and he called on donors, governments and individuals to give support.
"Meteorological services in West Africa are really finding it difficult to mobilize resources, and without resources it is difficult to carry out our work effectively", he repeated.
Gomez thanked WMO and the Kingdom of Spain for funding the meeting, and all the West African countries “for their very positive participation”.
During the last three days of the meeting, Mr. Gomez explained, there was a revision of the Las Palmas Action Plan, which was done in Niamey 2007, and the adoption of the Banjul Action Plan 2010.
Members agreed ongoing and additional actions and mechanisms for cooperation during 2010, he revealed, further noting that the meeting added some new areas in the Banjul Action Plan such as climate and health, specific capacity building and training activities, tools for management and planning.
The meeting, he went on, also considered a new organizational structure for activities in three strategic areas, in addition to the programme monitoring activities, that is core technical, applied technical, and management capacity building activities.
Core technical capacity building will include observation, weather watch i.e. data collection, weather monitoring, and forecasting. Climate activities include climate change monitoring, reports, databases and climate services.
For the management capacity building activities, the aim is to strengthen management practices improvement, mobilization of resources initiatives support, marketing and others.
According to Mr. Gomez, the meeting of Directors of the West African NMHS also focused on the cooperation agreement with the Kingdom of Spain and WMO for NMH services in the sub region.
The agreement, he pointed out, started in 2007 with merely focusing on strengthening meteorological services in West Africa.
The Banjul Action Plan, Mr. Gomez said, out-lines four key areas, that is, agricultural meteorology, marine meteorology, climate and health, and management skills.
Explaining agricultural meteorology, he said activities are in the form of a regional project focused on strengthening surface observation networks and other use of simplified rain gauges to elaborate and disseminate information to farmers and decision makers, and to partners such as WMO and national MHS.
Marine meteorology, he said, concerns implementation of a pilot project according to the four-year Marine Met-Ocean Project (monitoring and services from the North West Africa Basin and Macronesia).
Phase one of the project includes countries like Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and The Gambia, with the addition of Guinea and Guinea Bissau later, and expansion to other countries in the Gulf of Guinea to be considered.
Management skills, he added, concerns enhancing capacity of NMHS in advocacy for increased political support and financing to the NMHS within the national context.
It also relates to the hosting of a workshop focused on resource mobilization, creating and tutoring a management course in French by e-learning for NMHS, directors and managers and WMO e-learning platform usage on technical and management issues.
According to Mr. Gomez, providing weather reports on a daily basis is a common problem for many countries like The Gambia, but not a problem for countries like Ghana and Nigeria as they have many reports daily.
"For The Gambia, we have only one report for the day, aired over GRTS-TV, which should not be the case". He went on, "we need to have funds for the meteorological services to be reporting the weather forecast from morning to night continuously in the day".
He said that it is through forecasting that one can know whether it is going to be sunny and hot for the day, adding that in many places around the world, a daily forecast is available. It is through the forecast also that one can know the air-quality conditions and weather of the day, he added.
Meteorologists, he asserted, have been working with scientists in many disciplines for decades to improve on local and regional forecasts, and know how to turn the data into useful information for the public.

Alarming Rate of Environmental Degradation

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Gambia Government recognises the alarming rate of environmental degradation and the increasing levels of disasters in the country.
This is according to the national draft report entitled “Views From The Frontline” based on survey conducted in The Gambia, carried out by the Children For Children Organisation (CFCO) with its partners involved in a research project in the country.
According to the report’s Executive Summary, the Gambia is one of the 168 member states of the United Nations which signed and adopted the HYOGO Framework for Action (HFA) in Kobe, Japan 2005.
This is a key framework on implementing disaster risk reduction measures within the overall goal of building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
The report stated that disaster management in Gambia has been based a top-down management approaches which were simply unsuccessful in addressing the needs of vulnerable communities.
According to the report, a better understanding of disaster and losses in the Gambia today reveals that the increase in disaster occurrence and disaster related losses is due to the exponential increase in occurrence of small and medium scale disasters.
Against this background, it is important to adopt a new strategy, such as the bottom-up approach, because communities are considered the best judges of their own vulnerability and can make the best decisions regarding their own well-being.

The CFCO national coordinator, Ibrahim Ceesay, was contacted on 14 February 2010 to shed more light on the contents of the report.
He said that the survey, “View From The Frontline”, was the first attempt to involve local stakeholders from government and civil society to measure progress towards implementing disaster prevention measures at country level, adding that the project is being implemented in several countries at the global level.
Mr. Ceesay stated that the project was designed to support the implementation of the HFA by establishing a global infrastructure to measure progress at the local level, noting that the infrastructure will provide a provisional baseline by which future progress can be periodically assessed.
The role of civil society in the assessment, Mr. Ceesay added, is crucial as the information gathered will be collated and analysed at the local, national and regional levels to identify good practice, critical success factors and key constraints towards progress.
He recalled that CFCO in January 2009 organised a consultative and briefing meeting with stakeholders on the “Views From The Frontline” project, and in July 2009 another consultative workshop was held, in which government officials, youth organisations, media, among others, attended to share experiences and ideas about the report. The workshops, he said, were all successfully conducted as the participation and the turn out was “very impressive”.
About the HFA, Mr. Ceesay said “the required outcome of the HFA is a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2015. To achieve this outcome, the impact of the HFA must be felt on the ground where people who are at risk live, eat and work. Effective implementation of the HFA will require strong accountability, based on the ability to measure progress towards objectives”.
Building a strong evidence base, he continued, will inform public policy work and can serve to facilitate dialogue between civil society organisations and public authorities.
“This dialogue can encourage agreement on policy positions and build broad based advocacy coalitions and alliances that will enable local voices to be clearly heard within national, regional and international decision-making processes.
“Local communities and civil society organisations participating in the review process will be able to use the information produced to develop ways forward to address the main challenges”, he added.
Quoting the report’s Forward authored by Mr. Ceesay himself, he said disasters are no longer seen as extreme events created entirely by natural forces, but as manifestations of unresolved problems of development.
According to Mr. Ceesay, the poor are often those most affected by a disaster; yet, he said, it is too simplistic to assume that there is a direct and absolute correlation between poverty and vulnerability. Poverty, he explained, is an indicator of lack of access to resources and income opportunities, and that is only one of the several dimensions of vulnerability.
The report is meant to provide guidance for government and relief agencies on disaster risk issues, and it is to be used as a tool in the Gambia on how it is viewed, and how the local communities are affected.
“We hope this report will be a useful guide for implementation of the HFA in The Gambia which is a key framework for implementing disaster risk reduction and building resilience of communities to disaster”.
According to the CFAO coordinator, the following were identified as communities at risk: Basse (URR) Janjanbureh (CRR) Jarra Soma (LRR) Kerewan (NBR), Brikama (WR), Ebo Town (KMC) and Banjul (BCC).
A total of 102 questionnaires were filled by CSOs, community and government representatives in all the places.
A common survey method that was designed by the Global Network of Civil Society Organisatins for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) was used to ensure high quality standards and cross country comparability, according to Mr. Ceesay.
Speaking on the main challenges in the implementation of the HFA process in the country, based on findings, Mr. Ceesay spoke of a lack of awareness campaigns on HFA, limited capacities, a disaster policy which has limited applicability in the informal sector, weak infrastructure and regional disaster management committees.
Also a lack of coherency in disaster management and response in The Gambia, poor analytical expertise and limited experts with relevant qualifications, he added. He also cited issues such as a low funding base and being under-resourced, a multitude of small players and issues of legitimacy, accountability and transparency.
According to him, various recommendations were made by the respondents during the survey, and participants in the community consultations recommended the need for multi-stakeholder engagement. That is, the government, private sector, CSOs, vulnerable and affected populations and communities on disaster risk reduction.
The recommendations also included to ensure local ownership of the HFA so as to amplify local voices at grass roots and national level, to mobilise communities and CSOs, through capacity building training programmes and massive awareness campaign activities on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
Also to develop early warning systems and contingency plans to ensuring the pre-positioning or storage of a minimum amount of food and medical supplies and equipment that might be needed by affected communities in case of a disaster.
Still dilating on the recommendations, Mr. Ceesay said these included the harnessing of resources, coherency in disaster management and response through improved partnerships between the CSOs and the government.
Also regular coordination meetings and networking, coalitions and to ensure proper use of natural resources to decrease environmental degradation, as well as ensure that construction standards are disaster-resilient.
The CFCO coordinator thanked various organisations, CSOs, NGOs and institutions for making the project a success.
He gave special thanks to all regional governors and mayors, regional disaster management focal persons, the media and all those who participated in the survey in the country.

GAMCOY Ten Leaves For Darfur

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-A contingent of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) numbering 196 soldiers on Thursday 11 February 2010 left the Gambia “on a humanitarian and peace support mission” in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.
Known as GAMCOY 10, the contingent includes 10 female soldiers, and members will be in Darfur for at least six months. The contingent is led by Lieutenant Colonel Ousman Gomez.
They are the tenth group of Gambian peacekeepers to be deployed to Darfur, since the first mission arrived there in 2004, and the fourth to be deployed under the UN/AU UNAMID force in Darfur.
Speaking at the farewell parade held at 22 July Square in Banjul, Lieutenant General Masanneh Kinteh, Chief of Defence Staff of the GAF, said that the security situation in Darfur has, over the past few months, “improved but still remains somehow unpredictable”.
“The hybrid mission continues to make significant strides in fulfilling its mandate, of creating the conditions for a peaceful a stable environment to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
“The deployment of more UNAMID troops in the mission area has undoubtedly improved the security situation. Your contingent, therefore, will join other contingents deployed in the mission area in carrying out your assigned tasks under the UNAMID mandate.
“Your tasks will include, among other things, to provide security and freedom of movement to UNAMID personnel and humanitarian workers within your areas of responsibility”.
Other aspects of their mission also involve “protection of the civilian population under threat of physical violence”. “Perhaps, more importantly, you are required to give hope to the hopeless and restore confidence and human dignity in the communities. To achieve this, you must work hard to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population. This requires a high sense of commitment and dedication to the service of the mission, and the people of Darfur”, he declared.
Describing the members of GAMCOT Ten as “our peace ambassadors in Darfur”, the CDS advised them to be ready at all times “to execute your tasks in a highly professional manner”.
The Vice President, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, attended the parade, and delivered the farewell message on behalf of the President who said that “recent developments in that part of our continent have given light to hope for peace again”. “Just a couple of days ago President Idris Deby of Tehad ended a two-day state visit to Sudan Both heads of state (Deby and El-Bashir) had publicly declared that there are no more problems between their two countries and had acknowledged the pressing need for peace for their peoples.
“In this regard, Government’s commitment to fulfil its obligations to the Charter and principles of the AU/UN and the Gambia Armed Forces’ readiness to participate in the peacekeeping endeavours to consolidate these gains will be unrelenting”, the President declared.

GAMCOY Ten, the Gambian leader added, was being deployed at a time when “Sudan is well poised to hold its presidential elections next year and also the referendum for its southern province. Preparations are well under way for these very important activities, crucial for the peoples of Sudan including the Darfur”.
“The outcome for these elections are going to determine the future of generations to come, and your role in this process is of paramount importance”, he added.


NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)_The Week would bot had been possible without support of Legal Capacity Building Project funded by the DFID of the British Government. Which as they all knew has been supporting capacity building to the legal sector over the past few years. The President of the bar Association Amie Bensouda reminded her colleagues, at the kairaba beach Hotel, on Thursday 28 January 2010. As she welcome them to the Conference, as part of the Bar Week 2010, activities.
She added “we are very appreciative of the support, and in particular tat the head of the project who is a Barrister who understands and shares with our vision to made the GBA the leading civil society organisation for the protection of rights” she reiterated. Continuing she stated this is one of the key events of what has been a busy but productive week for members of the Bar. “Its been a landmark week comprising a series of activities designed to enable the Bar interface with the public, review and re-appraise itself in terms of its capacity to deliver its mandate as articulated in our constitution” she noted
Furthermore, she indicated that it is also the first Bar Week organised by the Gambia bar Association. The theme she said for the week “LEGAL PRACTICE IN THE 21 CENTURY”. And the focus has been o n ethnical values in relation to two of their main objectives, the maintenance of professional standards, discipline and etiquette.
Officially launching the conference the Minister of Justice Marie Saine Firdaus, noted that “in order to face the 21 Century you must upgrade yourself”. She told her colleagues. She continued that they must continue to burn the exercise honestly, politeness and build partnership between the Bar and bench as well as the Government”. She induce them to equip themselves with working facilities in their chambers in order to make their easier, “ engaged yourself in publishing boos and other source of reference, for the up coming young ones who want to be Legal Practitioners” she stressed. She said with this you could beat your chest and say I had contribute a lot for my country.”
Speaking earlier, the project manager Robert Hufley said that it is a great pleasure, and assured the Bar that his office will surely support the bar. He stated that “media and law are very essential in strengthening democracy in any country”.

" Cooperation, Most Challenging For ICC"

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)_The Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has said that the mot challenging area for the ICC and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is cooperation. She was speaking to delegates at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, on the occasion of the Gambia Bar Week.
The Bar Week whose closing ceremony was held on Friday 29 January 2010, was organised by the Gambia Nar Association and funded by the Legal Capacity Building Programme. The theme of the Bar Week was:“Legal Practice In The 21st Century”.
Mrs. Bensouda told delegates that the Rome Statute establishes a comprehensive regime for the repression of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“While the court has the necessary judicial powers it does not have an independent mechanism to enforce its decisions”.
According to her, the “successful implementation of its work depends on cooperation with the international community”, in particular state parties.
She said cooperation is necessary, for instance, “in assisting the court with the protection of victims and witnesses, the execution of warrants of arrest, the transfer of suspects to the court, as well as logistical and administrative matters”. She indicated that while cooperation in these fields is requested primarily from the territorial states, the ICC has seen how the support of other states and organisations, particularly the United Nation in the context of the DRC, would often be essential to achieving arrests.
On how the ICC and the Gambian Bar Association could work together, Mrs. Bensouda said, in the long term, the success of the Rome Statue would be the effective prosecution of these crimes through ending impunity around the world.
This is one area in which, she believes, they could work together since their separate mandates could complement each other.
“One of the tasks of the prosecutor is to make it clear to states that he would do his part”, but that a positive understanding of the idea of complementarity is essential”, she pointed out, adding, “it is key to the success of the system”.
On what this means in practice, she said they firmly believe that a positive understanding of complementing means making sure that first the court is taken seriously as an enforcer of the statute.
“We believe that we have after five years now crossed a critical threshold where the public and, in particular, governments realise that the rules had changed and they have to act,” she stressed.
She said this means, for instance, implementing the provisions of the Rome Statute into national legislation.
This was an area in which the Gambia Bar Association could contribute in a crucial manner, she noted.
“I would like to point out that 30 African states are state parties to the Rome Statute”, which clearly demonstrates the high level of responsibility expressed by the African states including The Gambia.
“ICC core values are consistent with African norms. It was clear that even those African countries that are not yet state parties to the Statute share our objective of working for greater accountability”, she stated.
Another challenge faced by the OTP specifically relates to how to initiate its investigations. “For the prosecutors and myself our mandate is clear. We have to apply the law, as an independent prosecutor”. She explained that with propio motu powers the prosecutors have the responsibility to select the cases to bring to the court. This, she further explained, was seen in Rome as the most sensitive of issues. “But selection of cases is, at the end of the day, straight forward. The prosecutors, she told delegates, investigate those most responsible for the most serious crimes of the gravest situations under their jurisdiction.
“Nothing more, nothing less; that is what we did and what we would continue to do”.
She made it clear that, as a result of the application of the law, they are prosecuting Thomas Lubanga for recruiting child soldiers, Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) for abducting children and transforming them into sexual slaves and killers.
They are also prosecuting Germain Katanga and Mathew Ngudjao for killing and raping civilians, Jean-Pierre Bemba, for a campaign of rape and pillage, and Harun and Kushayb for attacking civilians in villages.
Finally, she said, “we had requested an arrest warrant against Al Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”, she declared.
They are also prosecuting Abu Garba for attacking AU peacekeepers in Haskanita on 29 September 2007.
“As announced in late November, we are seeking authorization from the court’s judges to open an investigation proprio motu regarding the situation in Kenya and the crimes committed during the post-election violence

Gambia Hosts Sub- Regional Meeting on Meteorology and Hydrology

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)_A meeting to discuss progress on the implementation of the cooperation agreement between the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Spanish Meteorological Services in West Africa was held recently at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
Participants were drawn from Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, and Guinea Conakry, The Gambia, among other countries in West Africa, who focused on cooperation and collaboration to fight climate change in West Africa, especially those sharing similar climate patterns.
The meeting was funded by the Meteorological Agency of the Kingdom of Spain, which is giving invaluable support to the meteorological services in the sub-region, according to officials.
Works Minister Lamin Bojang, addressing participants at the opening ceremony on behalf of Minister of Water Resources, assured participants that The Gambia was pleased to host such a forum.
“It is a great honour and privilege to be associated with this meeting of the World Meteorological Organisation, heads of meteorological services in West Africa and the Meteorological Agency of the Kingdom of Spain in one conference hall”. He continued:
“I am, therefore, delighted to note that The Gambia has been given its rightful place as a member of WMO, as evidenced by holding of this important meeting on its soil, barely three years following the inception of the cooperation agreement between WMO, the Meteorological Agency of the Kingdom of Spain and meteorological services in West Africa”.
According to Mr. Bojang, the cooperation agreement among countries should be taken with the utmost seriousness, as the very survival of their communities depends on how countries utilized the climate resources for their benefit.
Minister Bojang added that statistics over the last decade show that over 80 percent of all natural disasters are climate related, adding that more than 65 percent of losses and nearly 90 percent of people were attributed to climate hazards.
Unfortunately, the Minister said, the burden of the associated impacts falls disproportionately on developing countries, and on the poorest communities.
In a country such as The Gambia, livelihoods depend on climate-sensitive activities such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, Mr. Bojang further noted.
It is, therefore, easy to know why weather and climate issues are of paramount importance to the Gambia, and to all other of countries in the sub-region.
“We in the Gambia are much concerned with the current and future state of the climate because, in spite of our well meaning efforts to achieve our National Vision 2020, alleviate poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals”, climate change can undermine our efforts and constitutes a major threat to sustainable development and progress”, he said.
Holding this meeting in Banjul, Minister Bojang said, was timely. He re-iterated the government’s support to the meteorological services in various areas, citing staff training, deployment of state-of-the-art equipment, and the capacity to deliver relevant, accessible and user-friendly weather and climate information to communities at the local level, as well to decision makers in government and elsewhere.
According to the Minister, many countries are aware that climate change is one of the greatest challenges that humankind is faced with in this modern world, adding that it is a global concern in which both rich and poor nations are affected by its impacts.
He went on to point out that some countries, particularly in the developed world, now treat climate change as a national security concern.
The justification for such a position is not difficult to explain, taking examples of intense precipitation, drought, storm, winds etc. all threatening livelihoods and lives on a daily basic as well as undermining past achievements, he added.
The Gambia’s representative at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Bernard Gomez, noted that the meeting is timely and important to all the stakeholders that are involved in the meteorological services.
He added that experts that are involved in the meteorological services are aware of the dangers that climate change poses to the communities in the region.
The Spanish Ambassador to The Gambia, Javier Benoso, hailed the Gambia government for accepting to host the meeting. Among the speakers was Alioune Ndiaye, the WMO Regional Director for Africa, who also thanked the Spanish Meteorological Agency for funding the meeting.

Health Ministry Bags International Award

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has has given an award to the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) a Component of Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) in Banjul, for its “consistent high immunization coverage over the past five years”.
The Gambia, according to GAVI, is the second country in Africa to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine into the routine immunization programme, after Rwanda.
A presentation ceremony was held at the Ministry’s conference hall recently, to hand over the award to the national health authorities.
Chairing the ceremony, Ramou Cole-Ceesay, assistant director Family Health, said the presentation of the award to Gambian authorities is for their “dedication to health concerns”.
Giving a brief history of the EPI’s programme, Mrs Cole-Ceesay added that the EPI is one of the 13 technical units of the health ministry, estabilshed way back in 1976 following an outbreak of yellow fever in the country.
Since then the EPI has added various vaccines to its arsenal for yellow fever, measles etc., noting that the EPI now has more than ten vaccines.
According to her, the EPI has involved progressively in giving vaccines to Gambians and non-Gambians living in the country. The health sector has stood firmly to curb the menace of diseases that kill children under 5 years, thanks to the Gambia government, she declared.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised the efforts of the government as one of the best in Africa, in terms of implementing its health programmes. Yamundow Jallow manager EPI programme, giving background information on the EPI, said it was in 1979 when the primary health care (PHC) was adopted when the EPI was born. According to her, the EPI is currently targeting mealses, Diptheria, pertusis (whooping cough), tetanus, yellow fever, hepatitis heamophilus influenza type B and pneuococcus with as many as ten vaccines, noting that all this contributes to achieving the MDGs.
On programme strategies, she said they have fixed or static clinics, mobile clinics or outreach and National Immunisation Days (NIDS) all geared toward ensuring that the children in the country get vaccines at the right time. The target population varies from children 0-24 months of age to mothers of child-bearing age, that is, 15 –49 years of age.
“As I am speaking at this ceremony, since 1994 to date there have been no single day when a vaccine is out of stock”. She added that all drugs imported into the country are recommended by UNICEF and WHO, and that “all these vaccines are quality stocks”. Vaccines for the programme are all ordered though UNICEF to ensure quality stocks, she further noted.
Citing some of the achievements, Mrs. Jallow said that for the past five years, the county ha achieved 85 percent coverage on vaccines. “We have switched from kerosene to solar refrigerators in 1988, attainment of polio free status in 2004, attainment of NNT elimination status in 2002, no laboratory confirmed measles cases since 2003 and no laboratory confirmed yellow fever cases since 1979.
On some of the challenges, she revealed that the maintenance of high immunization coverage, mobilization of adequate resources for EPI and inadequate trained human resources at all level are some of the challenges.
She gave the following recommendations: increase financial resources for EPI, continue training or retraining of staff and strengthen collaboration with partners for improved immunization services.
Receiving the award on behalf of the ministry, Sekou Omar Toure, permanent secretary said that despite the challenges, the Gambia is ranked high under the EPI.
He added that it has always been a core priority of the Health ministry, and that a lot has been done and still more needs to be done in terms of service expansion to the doorsteps of the people.