The Government of Japan Tuesday handed over equipment worth D2.5 billion to the Government of The Gambia at a presentation ceremony presided over by the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy at the Maintenance Services Agency (MSA) in Kotu.
The equipment included six bulldozers, four ambulances, nine Pickup trucks, three rescue boats, seven excavators, 7 Tipper trucks, 1 truck with trailer and 7 silent generators. The donated equipment are expected to support indisaster management and rapid response initiatives in The Gambia.
The Japanese Government also donated 4, 503 metric tons of clean rice valued at D80 million to the Gambia.
The ceremony, which coincided withcelebrations marking The Gambia's 48thIndependence Anniversary, was attended by Dr Njogu L Bah, the secretary general and head of Civil Service who is also the minister of Presidential Affairs; Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, the speaker of the National Assembly; Cabinet ministers, Ambassador of Japan to The Gambia, the Nigeria high commissioner to The Gambia, heads of institutions and departments, governors, staff of National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and well wishers.
The occasion also witnessed the official handing over of food and non-food relief items from the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Gambia Government worth D3million as humanitarian assistance to victims of recent disasters in the country.
Receiving the donated equipment and items on behalf of the Gambian leader, VP Njie-Saidy said that the government and people of Japan are longtime friends and a development partner to The Gambia. She acknowledged that the equipment would go a long way in supporting disaster management and rapid response initiatives in The Gambia.
"In the past five years, The Gambia has witnessed successive environmental calamities such as floods (2009, 2010, and 2012) and drought (2011) and these have had a negative impact on the economy and livelihoods of many Gambians. In 2011 and 2012, 206, 000 and 35, 000 people respectively were affected by floods, windstorms, and droughts," she disclosed.
Even though the government has been working strenuously to support victims of such natural calamities to mitigate their effects, Vice President Njie-Saidy said that the frequency and intensity of such natural disasters have strained government resources to the extent that they had to seek support from individual Gambians and corporate citizens and friends and development partners abroad. "We are grateful that the support already received has helped mitigate the suffering of victims who are usually the poor and vulnerable in our society," she further stated.
VP Njie-Saidy noted that the equipment and machinery donated by the Government of Japan through the extended Grant for Environment and Climate Change Mitigation will significantly improve disaster preparedness and rapid response by the NDMA with its decentralised structures. She added that the equipment would also improve capacity to cope with natural disasters caused by climate change and build a self-reliant resilience for the vulnerable farming communities and the very poor.
"Government is also grateful for the rice donated as it has come at a time when the international price of rice is high and it provides an opportunity for the rural under-privileged farmers and low income urban dwellers to afford rice of very high quality. The consignment will also save government foreign exchange which would have been used to import rice of the same quantity," she added.
VP Njie-Saidy who is also the chairperson of the Disaster Governing Council also expressed appreciation for the Government of Japan's support to the rural water supply programme, while reiterating government's appreciation for all donations received from home and abroad following the appeal as a result of the vagaries of the weather which caused a drought in 2011 and flooding and windstorms in 2012.
"I will seize this opportunity once again to thank my dear brother and colleague, H.E Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for his government's recent donation of relief materials in the form of food and non-food items worth over D3 million to the government of the Republic of The Gambia as humanitarian assistance to the affected victims of recent disasters in the country," she remarked.
She added that it is a clear manifestation of the excellent brotherly ties between the people and government of the two countries.
VP Njie-Saidy assured the two countries through their ambassadors that the items will be utilised for the purpose for which they are meant for and thanked them for making The Gambia more prepared to plan against natural calamities and respond adequately should they occur.
Poulo O.N Joof, the acting executive director of NDMA, said that the Government of The Gambia fully recognises the fact that disaster risk management is a development imperative and priority leading to the establishment of theAgency. .
He recalled that the Gambian leader in 2010 was the first to donate to the NDMA food relief worth D10 million to support the affected victims of the 2010 floods.
Joof thanked their partners, especially the Japanese Embassy in Dakar, the Nigerian High Commissioner, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, Muslim Aid, FAO, UNDP and a host of humanitarian and development partners for their continued support, collaboration and partnership with the NDMA.
He also thanked the National Disaster Governing Council under the leadership of VP Njie-Saidy, the mayors and governors for their guidance and support to the NDMA and its decentralised structures.
Handing over the equipment, His Excellency Hiroshi Fukada, the ambassador of Japan to the Republic of The Gambia, said that the equipment are meant to support the Government of The Gambia in coping with natural disasters caused by climate change.
He explained that the equipment are expected to be used not only for disaster emergency situations, but also for reconstruction work. He used the opportunity to thank the Gambian leader for his official acceptance to attend the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), to be held in June this year in Japan.
Fukada also explained that the Food Aid is a key Aid programme between the two countries, to show to the Gambian people the assistance of the Japanese people, by contributing to the food security of the country.
He continued: "We all know that climate change in recent years has brought greater threat to mankind, which The Gambia is not an exception. The natural disaster has caused a lot of victims by damaging so many things. My government has decided to assist the government of The Gambia and people to over come these difficulties and damages caused."
He expressed hope that The Gambia government will make judicious use of the equipment, while alsoexpressing optimism that the friendshipbetween the two countries will be further strengthened.
For her part, Her Excellency Esther John Audu, the Nigeria high commissioner to The Gambia, expressed appreciation to President Jammeh for continuing to maintain good relations with Nigeria. She also thanked His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan for approving the purchase of relief items for The Gambia.
High Commissioner Audu also expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the Gambian government to assist victims ofdisaster.
Mawdo Amadou Jallow, regional disaster coordinator for Upper River Region, moderated the ceremony.