The refugee communities living in The Gambia have expressed their appreciation and satisfaction to the Government for creating the conducive environment and support in the areas of health, education amongst, other sectors.
“We want to thank the Government under the leadership of President Jammeh for giving us all the support in the areas of education and health and we are praying for peace and prosperity to continue to rein in the country,“ Jean Didier Seri, President of the Rural Refugees in The Gambia, said.
The refugees made this declaration during a Refugee Day celebration held in Sibanor in the Foni Bintang-Karanai District of the West Coast Region. The celebration was held under the theme: “UNHCR Stands Together With Refugees.”
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director of The Gambia Food and Nutrition Agency (GAFNA), Yusufa Gomez stated that this year’s theme reminds both the refugees and hosts that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and its partners are together with them in assisting them to live dignified and decent lives wherever they exist.
“Displaced societies are of value. Their issues are our issues,” he said, quoting Cynthia Basinet, a United States born singer and actress who is also involved in humanitarian work for refugees.
“It is evident that the majority of these refugees are faced with enormous challenges ranging from livelihood, health, social protection and so forth after departing their country of origin in emergency situations.”
Gomez added that it is against this backdrop that GAFNA as a national development NGO has built partnership with the UNHCR to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees in order to reduce their vulnerability and improve their socio-economic status as they continue to live in The Gambia.
The support provided, he said, is also geared towards redressing part of the stress placed on the available social amenities in the host communities that is partly due to the influx of these refugees in these communities.
“GAFNA has adopted a self-reliant and livelihood strategy that is refugee-host driven based on annual needs assessments conducted prior to proving any support,” Gomez affirmed.
“This strategy recognises the self-reliance and dignity of the refugees and focuses more on graduating the refugees from assistance before the end of UNHCR funding.”
The assistance currently provided to refugees and hosts by GAFNA through UNHCR funding, he highlighted are in the following areas: Minimal health services especially for the vulnerable refugees; educational support for refugee children and their protection, though this support will undergo a major paradigm shift this year and years to come; water supply for both domestic and vegetable gardening; shelter support for storm and flood victims; agricultural and horticultural input support; cash voucher, start-up kits and vocational assistance to support livelihood activities to enhance economic empowerment and self-reliance; sexual and gender-based violence and human rights training and sensitisation activities.
“All the above mentioned interventions are geared towards assisting refugees to live a dignified life and be self-reliant to take care of their needs and those of their other family members, whilst they continue to stay in our dear country,” he stated.
Gomez further expressed appreciation to the United States Embassy in The Gambia for providing them with the financial assistance to support their work with the refugees in the Foni area of child protection, vegetable gardening support and other income generation activities.
“The child protection project that was supported last year by the Embassy has provided protective child friendly centres to enhance the growth and development of both refugee and host children in remote rural communities,” he added, while thanking President Jammeh and Government for the continued support provided to the refugees residing in The Gambia.
For her part, the UNDP Resident Representative to The Gambia, Ade Mamonyne Lekoetje, said The Gambia is a leading country in supporting refugees. She acknowledged that refugees have often witnessed an outpouring of generosity by their host communities, individuals and ordinary people in The Gambia.
Madam Ade further stated that the UNHCR has seen 2016 as a watershed moment for refugees’ cause. “As war spiral out of control we feel this must be a year to take collective responsibility and action to end the conflicts which force people to flee and also to help the millions of people whose lives have been destroyed by this violence,“ she stressed.
“World leaders can no longer watch passively as so many lives are needlessly lost; we must be smart about finding solutions to help refugees. We must find humane and dignified [solutions] to ensure refugees don’t risk their lives and those of their families by resorting to ruthless traffickers or by boarding flimsy boats in a bid to reach safety,” she concluded
by Alhagie Babou Jallow
& Binta Jammeh