The United Nations assistant secretary general who is also the regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel has disclosed that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has provided a total of US$300,000 to support children with malnutrition in The Gambia. This, he said, is part of the Sahel region's US$1.7 billion appeal to tackle food insecurity in the region. Robert Piper, who was speaking to journalists in a press conference at the conference hall of The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA) in Bakau, also revealed that out of that US$1.7 billion, The Gambia has an appeal of US$15 million, which he described as very modest.
Piper is in the country for a three-day familiarisation tour with a view to equipping himself with first-hand information about the country's humanitarian situation. During his three-day tour of the country, he had the opportunity meet actors in the government machinery and the NGO community. "This morning I had a brief chance to listen to Red Cross movement, the NGOs and Refugee Commission just to get the sense of their priorities," he told reporters. Piper informed that well-off people have a mechanism to cope with when disaster hits while the poor becomes the most vulnerable. He observed that the issue is not just about responding to the existing crisis in the region, but also to try to remedy the problems in the future by putting in policies that would be more effective so that the budget for humanitarian problems could go down instead of going up.
He lamented the fact that the weather and the man-made activities are not helping; things he said are exacerbated by instabilities in Mali and Sudan among other countries in the Sahel region. While underlining that he is representing the entire humanitarian community, the UN assistant secretary general also stressed that it is prudent that there should be a need to prioritise issues relating to disaster matters that ought to be consistent.
Urging the humanitarian communities to be in line with governments, the UN top official also pointed out that they will want donors who act on early warnings rather than those who wait for disasters to strike.
The press conference was attended by senior UN officials from both the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as the World Food Programme (WFP).