The executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Essa Khan, has reacted to concerns raised by some National Assembly members who faulted the seeds and food aid distribution during their recent adjournment debate at the National Assembly.
Some deputies during the debate had expressed concern over the way the assessment was done, alleging that their constituencies were excluded from the intervention, and therefore calling on the NDMA to explain how everything was done.
Reacting to the comments during an interview with the Daily Observer in his office along Kairaba Avenue on Thursday, Khan, who said he would not comment on the seed side, which is under the FAO and Ministry of Agriculture, stressed that it is important for people to have full understanding of the highly technical aspect of emergency intervention, which according to him, is not something that is done anyhow.
He added emergency intervention that has certain processes, procedures and standard operating procedures to enhance transparency and accountability. Khan said they are working closely with the UN agencies and NGO communities to make sure emergency food assistance goes to the most needed.
His words: "Now having said that, we are all aware that the crop failure affected The Gambia and it is not only The Gambia that is being affected by the crop failure, but the entire Sahel region has been affected and the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Agriculture has to declare emergency response for the crop failure."
The NDMA boss said since the appeal was launched, donor agencies together with the government have mobilised resources in order to give support, with food aid being one aspect of the intervention. "The intervention has several components -food component, water component, sanitation and hygiene component, and other components trying to enhance the productivity of farmers," he explained.
He pointed out that more resources are even needed considering the fact that other countries like Chad, Niger and Mali are also affected and they all tap from the same place for assistance. Khan said that this notwithstanding, the UN agencies together with the Gambia government are able to mobilise significant amount of resources for The Gambia, adding that they have also developed a plan in order to mobilise more resources to fill the remaining gap.
He suggested that the concerned NAMs should find out from their different regional disaster management committees or the regional disaster management coordinators to get the accurate and firsthand information. The NDMA boss thanked the Majority leader and NAM for Serekunda East, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta for telling the NAMs what they should have done.
He continued: "There was a detail post-harvest assessment that was done at the end of the 2011 farming season [and] the outcome of the assessment has indicated that there are 19 districts that are most affected and six others on the borderline; the emphasis of the assistance is based on the most affected for their early and timely recovery.
"It does not mean others are not affected but people are affected in different degrees. Based on the resources available, intervention starts from the most affected going down and that is exactly what has been done. Therefore, the food assistance given cannot cover everybody at the same time."
Khan further explained that the intervention was purposely designed for farmer households, [and also] targets female headed households, pregnant women, lactating mothers, children under five years, the physically challenged, those living with HIV, and so on. He added that the assistance cannot target those that earn salaries.
The NDMA chief disclosed that there are four rounds of food distribution in their priorities and this distribution will go until early October. He said the first round that has already been completed shows that over 140, 000 people benefitted and a similar figure is expected to be covered in the second round that will start on the 7th July with West Coast Region.
He then made it clear that they will not compromise the credibility of this country when it comes to the distribution of the aid, saying the resources are mobilised outside. Hestated that The Gambia emergency response is one of the best.
He insisted that the assessment was done in the right way as both post-harvest and multi-sectoral assessment were done in order to be able to ascertain those that are mostly affected. "The fact that you are covered is based on evidence and the fact that you are not covered does not mean you will not be covered," he added.
He finally called on the people to go through the right channel if they want to get the right information for any clarification. "But if you go to the wrong source, you will end up implementing someone's agenda. Here we are interested in the national agenda.
So therefore, anyone who wants information irrespective of whom and where you come from, as far as the plight of our farmers are concerned, the UN agencies or NDMA are the right place to get the right information," he concluded.