The Post-Crisis Response to Food and Nutrition Insecurity Project was on Thursday launched in The Gambia at a hotel in Senegambia.
The US$11.4 million project seeks to support the fight against malnutrition among children under two years in four administrative regions namely; North Bank Region, Lower River Region, Central River Region and Upper River Region through targeted interventions focusing on food insecure households.
In her remarks, Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, the minister of Health and Social Welfare has stated that the under-nutrition is a major public health problem in The Gambia, exacerbated by increasing poverty levels and food insecurity, poor coverage of nutrition interventions, poor dietary habits, poor sanitation and hygiene and increased burden.
As they are aware that food and nutrition security is about access to sufficient and affordable nutritious food, she said that the Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2013 showed that 24.5% of children under five were stunted and wasting among children under five has also significantly worsened from a rate of 6.4% to 11.5%.
"Poor sanitary and hygiene conditions, coupled with inadequate access to safe water, among the major factors contributing to deteriorating levels of malnutrition status among children under five in The Gambia", she informed the gathering.
According to her, good nutrition is the first defence against disease and their source of energy to live noting that nutritional problems caused by an inadequate diet could be of many sorts, and when they affect a generation of youngsters, they could lower learning capacities, thus compromising their future, and perpetuating a generational cycle of poverty and malnutrition, with severe consequences on both individuals and nations.
Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, FAO country representative who made a joint statement on behalf of FAO, WFP and UNICEF, said that the project would last for 30 months and has a total budget of 11.4 milloin Euro out of which 4.2 million Euro would directly target support to agriculture and through FAO; 5.2 million Euro would directly target support to food and nutrition through WFP; and 1.65 million Euro would target nutrition intervention through UNICEF.
She indicated that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Therefore, she said, sustainable development cannot be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated.
For his part, Attila Lajos, EU ambassador to the Gambia said that the combined effect of lack of agriculture production and lack of income are jointly considered as key factors of food insecurity and contributes to nutrition. These twin shocks of drought and Ebola fear not only forced many Gambians into food nutrition security but the shock was so severe that the ability of communities to recover, or bounce back in the following years was undermined.
He revealed that the crisis provoked an immediate humanitarian response from the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), which funded cash transfers to the most vulnerable populations in Niani and Nianija in Central River Region and also provided assistance through UNICEF to severe acute malnourished children across the country.
Hon. Omar A. Jallow, minister for Agriculture said that the Ministry of Agriculture is fully committed and would continue to commit itself to the full implementation of this project, the improvement of food and nutrition security as well as acceleration of poverty reduction as set out in the Social Development Goals (SDGs).
"I encourage all stakeholders to support in the provision of opportunities for gainful employment especially in the agriculture industry. This will not only provide food for local consumption, but also our move towards the Home Grown School Feeding Programme. Thus, the commitment of all partners including the public, private sector and the youth is crucial. Successful implementation of this project will contribute to ending inter-generational cycle of hunger and lifting the household out of poverty and improving their health and nutritional status", he concluded.