Bordered by Senegal and the North Atlantic Ocean, The Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest countries and a popular tourist destination, with resorts dotting the Atlantic Coast. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965, has few natural resources and relies heavily upon its peanut exports and tourism. The scarcity of potable water, the prevalence of preventable diseases and the lack of early childhood education make life difficult for children in The Gambia and their families.
ChildFund has served children in the Gambia since 1984.
Water and Health
Sibanor, a typical rural village in The Gambia, has a population of more than 4,000, but no clean water that is easily accessible. Abbas, a teenager, worried about the water his community used. “This water is containing so many diseases,” he said. “It is harmful for the children who play in stagnant water. In the rainy season, most of the children get malaria because of mosquitoes.”
This was true until ChildFund provided a water filtration system that provides Sibanor clean water year-round. Throughout our program areas, we have supplied safe drinking water to more than 79 percent of the families and helped many of these families construct basic sanitary facilities to reduce the spread of communicable diseases.
Cerebral malaria, one of the most severe forms of the disease, accounts for 30 percent of deaths of children under 5 in The Gambia. Thanks to our bed net program and the medicine we have distributed, child deaths have decreased by 40 percent.
To ensure that children are properly nourished, we conduct mandatory health education programs for parents and require follow-up visits to regularly monitor their children’s growth. In addition, we have championed over 25 Early Childhood Development Centers throughout the country for infants and young children, which has influenced the successful formulation of a national ECCD policy. To date, more than 70 percent of the enrolled families have learned about nutrition from educational films and said programs.
Learning for Life
ChildFund works to increase children’s access to education — and to better-quality education. We build schools, kindergartens and libraries and provide equipment such as furniture, maps, dictionaries, geometric sets and teachers’ books.
We’re teaching the youth how to earn a living through helping them develop special skills in mechanics, carpentry, hair dressing and sewing. We also help teachers through finance workshops.
It is risky to rely on one crop in an unreliable global economy, so Gambians need more than peanut farms to depend on for income. To provide families with new income sources, we provide training in animal husbandry, primary health care and crop management. And families are encouraged to enhance their livelihoods by becoming involved with credit unions and village savings and credit associations to maintain small businesses.
Youth benefit from integrated programs that blend life skills training with entrepreneurial skills to help them enter the workforce. ChildFund works with youth to conduct market assessments to identify business opportunities particular to their areas, then provides them with the relevant skills training, preparing them to find employment at a decent wage and in non-exploitative conditions.