Gambian lawmakers on Wednesday voted to recognize the 15th day of the holy month of Ramadan as Orphan’s Day during an extra ordinary session requested by President Yahya Jammeh.
Foreign Minister Neneh MacDouall-Gaye tabled a bill at the National Assembly following a request by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation to recognize the day for its member states and humanitarian organizations to take relevant action to raise awareness on the plight and needs of orphans.
Foreign Minister Gaye said The Gambia’s government has been paying special attention to the needs of orphans and it is greatly concerned about their plight. The government, she said has championed the welfare of women and children including orphans and widows, through many and diverse policy interventions and programs.
Responses in times of humanitarian crisis, especially during natural disasters (a leading cause for the increase number of orphans) remain inadequate principally in the Islamic world, prompting the OIC in 2013 to pass a resolution to stir member states to turn commitments into action oriented goals.
The OIC launched a special program for the welfare and protection of orphans after the catastrophic 2004 tsunami that killed at least 225,000 people across a dozen countries, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, and Thailand being the hardest hit.
A 2003 social welfare survey in The Gambia says at least 65,000 orphans and vulnerable children live across the country, which has significantly increased since.
After Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand faced global criticism for turning away Myanmar’s Rohingya people, The Gambia pledged to take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims escaping oppression to south-east Asia.
The Gambia is the world’s newest Islamic Republic and is preparing to host the OIC summit in 2018.
(Reporting from Banjul; Additional Writing by Sam Phatey; Contribution by Alhagie Jobe; Editing by Sam Phatey)