Food distribution to families affected by the crop failure that hit The Gambia in the 2011 cropping season has ended in three regions of the country.
This followed the conclusion of emergency food distribution in the Central River Region, which was declared the most affected region in the country according to a joint Post Harvest Assessment (January 2012) report by the Ministry of Agriculture. The report 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.
The recent distribution was made in the Upper River Region (URR), Lower River Region (LRR) and West Coast Region (WCR), which involved consumable food items such as rice and oil. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided the items and the distribution was conducted in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
The executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) Essa Khan told this paper Monday that 24,616 people benefitted from the distribution in the LRR, representing 677 households in Kiang East, 1700 households in Kiang West, 1092 in Kiang Central and 814 in Jarra Central.
In the Upper River Region, he said, the intervention areas were Jimara and Tumana in which 744 households, representing 6571 people benefited. In Tumana, he went on, 650 households representing 5421 people benefitted from the distribution, while in the West Coast Region, 597 households, representing 6889 people in Foni Berefet benefitted, 428 households representing 4881 people in Foni Bintang, 373 households representing 4478 people in Foni Bondali and 374 households representing 3491 people in Foni Jarrol benefitted. Khan also promised that the distribution will reach the North Bank Region immediately.
The food distribution involved all the concerned parties ranging from the community to the regional disaster management committees and the local authorities. Khan explained that they decided to involve all parties in order to establish transparency and accountability in the whole distribution process. "The beneficiaries are part of the 19 most affected districts in the five regions in the country based on the post-harvest assessment report conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture," he said, adding that this is the first round of the distribution and the process will continue until September to ensure that the right people are targeted and assisted.
The NDMA boss called on Gambians to ensure taking ownership and responsibilities in the wellbeing and development of their communities, stressing that most of the floods that happen are human induced. He also suggested that the next monthly Operation Clean the Nation should focus on drainage cleaning, as the rainy season has started. He also observed that focus should be put on land use planning, proper building codes and regulations, which he said will immensely reduce risk factors. "This is about integrating Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into development planning," he said, and added: "We have to engage development planners and practitioners as well as local government authorities. This is the idea behind the DRR national strategy being developed."
He stated that a verification mission to further ascertain the credibility of the distribution process will be mounted shortly comprising the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President and the NDMA to the regions to engage the governor s and the regional disaster management committees on the entire distribution process so that the chief executive and the disaster governing council will be updated accordingly and appropriately. He seized the opportunity to thank the government for creating the enabling environment for the distribution exercise.