Emergency food distribution wraps-up in CRR
Friday, May 04, 2012
At the onset of the crop failure that hit The Gambia in 2011 cropping season, a joint Post Harvest Assessment (January 2012) report by the Ministry of Agriculture estimated that a total of 605,000 people are living in the districts affected by the crop failure, out of which 428, 000 are living in the most affected 19 districts while an additional 177,000 are living in the borderline affected six districts.
In response to the declaration of severe crop failure and the subsequent appeal launched by the government for assistance, the UN Country Team responded by mobilising resources through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to respond to the food crisis in the areas of food security and livelihoods, health and nutrition as well as water and sanitation and emergency rehabilitation of the productive capacities of farmer households through the provision of seeds, fertilizers and other relevant aspects in this area.
An emergency food distribution has already concluded in the Central River Region (CRR), which is said to be the most affected region in the country according to the post-harvest assessment report.
According to the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Essa Khan, it is estimated that among the vulnerable population, 67, 500 are children under the age of five years, with 51,000 in the most affected districts and 16,500 in the borderline affected districts. He however revealed that it was not only The Gambia that was seriously affected, but almost the entire Sahel region declared emergency crop failure.
Khan stated that after the declaration of emergency crop failure in The Gambia, a joint multi-sector needs assessment was conducted in order to truly quantify the people affected in terms of households, gender, age, pregnant and lactating women and other important parameters to facilitate a transparent and accountable distribution of emergency assistance to the right households. “The joint assessment was coordinated by the World Food Programme and the NDMA, involving all critical partners in this exercise,” he said.
The funding for the needs assessment exercise, he added, was provided jointly by WFP, UNDP, UNICEF as well as Action Aid, Concern Universal, UNAIDS and the NDMA.
The NDMA boss further stated that according to the Post Harvest Assessment Report, Central River Region (CRR) is the most affected region by the crop failure. “Therefore, the World Food Programme (WFP) approved an Immediate Response Emergency Operation to provide 1,706 metric tons of food aid for 62,500 beneficiary households in the CRR for a period of two months at a total cost of USD1, 347, 287,” he said, and added: “The distribution of the food rations for the first month have just concluded in the CRR, which is just one of the five affected regions in The Gambia.”
With the aim to prevent increased food insecurity, Khan went on, WFP will provide food assistance to a total number of 206,000 people to cover the food needs during the lean season until the next harvest in September 2012. He explained that the food distribution is being done jointly by WFP and the NDMA through the Regional Disaster Management structures in the country.
Prior to the start of the distribution, a Joint Logistic and Capacity Assessment Mission was conducted countrywide by WFP and NDMA to identify appropriate stores and distribution centres. Khan said in addition to this, a pre-distribution training programme for Regional Disaster Management Committees, storekeepers and food management committees was conducted by the NDMA in Janjangbureh (CRR), to adequately prepare those who were to do the distribution with the basic skills and techniques involved in food distribution. He said this was designed to ensure equitable, transparent and accountable distribution process.
He also disclosed that the governor of CRR conducted a district authority meeting to adequately sensitise local authorities to fully understand the distribution formula, concept of operation for their full involvement to further enhance accountability and transparency in the distribution process based on evidence-based data and information from the needs assessment exercise.
He further said that a verification mission comprising the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President and the NDMA went to CRR on Wednesday 25th April to witness the distribution in order to verify the distribution process. According to him, findings from this mission revealed that in overall, the distribution has been very satisfactory. He was, however, quick to state that few constraints were encountered relating to beneficiaries submitting their identity cards, right spelling of names on the beneficiary lists and the few omissions of some names due to human error. “But these constraints were adjusted as the distribution progressed,” he said.
Khan noted that what was interesting in the distribution process which is quite commendable was the full involvement of women, local authorities and the visible collaborative partnership between government and the WFP. For instance, CRR Regional Disaster Management Committee worked alongside the WFP in a coordinated manner. He applauded the leadership role of the CRR governor, describing it as commendable. He also hailed the leadership role at national level played by the Disaster Management Governing Council under the chair of Her Excellency the Vice President.
Khan said that due to inadequate global resources to respond to the Sahelian food crises, the resident coordinator of the UN System in The Gambia, working closely with NDMA and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs approached the Regional Bureau of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to provide technical assistance including a field mission to Banjul to finalise an advocacy strategy which will be used for additional resource mobilisation to fill the funding gaps in the response to the food crisis. He revealed that overall sectoral needs will be reflected in the strategy for presentation to donors, a process, which he said will commence on 3rd May for early conclusion and subsequent resource mobilisation.
Of significant importance, he went on is the need for more innovative and comprehensive approach that builds on both humanitarian and development assistance so as to increase resilience and promote long-term sustainability. He also stressed that operationalising resilience-based approach to the food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the Sahel needs the full support of the United Nations. “There is therefore an urgent need, concerted and rapid action to meet the immediate emergency needs of the population in the Sahel, while at the same time also addressing the underlying structural causes of food insecurity by building the resilience and address chronic vulnerability in the Sahel,” he said and added: “We therefore need to collectively move forward on the resilience agenda by ensuring closer integration of humanitarian and developing programming to address chronic vulnerability and build resilience more effectively. The NDMA is about to finalise with support from the United Nations Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (UNCADRI), a National DRR Strategy and costed Operational Plan to address both the medium to longer term aspects of risk reduction, including of course a more robust, sustainable and longer term food security issues in the country.”
Khan then used the opportunity to commend the Government of The Gambia for demonstrating strong political leadership in addressing the problem. He also commended the Disaster Management Governing Council, the UN agencies and all humanitarian actors for their commitment.
Author: by Amadou Jallow