The United Nations specialized health agency, World Health Organization said an estimated quarter of a million Gambians will require humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs next year.
“Drought, flooding, wind-storms, pest infestation and disease outbreaks have been undermining food security and decimating livelihoods in Gambia since 2013. An estimated 200,000 people will require humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs in 2016,” the health agency said in its 2016 Humanitarian Action Plan.
Climate change-related erratic and declining rainfall has destabilized the agriculture sector in The Gambia, making food security a challenge.
With malnutrition and poor access to basic social services continuing to affect large sections of the population, an estimated 699,940 people (33% of the population) are considered food insecure.
“Other drivers of inadequate nutrition include poor infant feeding practices and care givers’ limited knowledge of essential nutritional and hygiene practices,” experts say.
About 60% of The Gambia’s population does not have access to improved sanitation. 13% of schools lack access to safe drinking water and at least 18% does not meet basic sanitation standards.
The UN said crop production levels remain low compared to the last five-year average putting affected households in urgent need for emergency support to meet immediate food needs, restore livelihoods and enhance resilience to future shocks and disasters.
Basic health services are out of reach for the most vulnerable people due to low income or lack of access. Basic essential drugs and other medical equipment are not readily available most of the time. Gambia’s population is exposed to meningitis and malaria, and approximately 65% are at risk of cholera.
In 2015 there was an outbreak of measles in the West Coast Region. At least 100 cases were reported in children aged nine months to 15 years due to malaria chemoprevention.
WHO said malnutrition is affecting children and women the most with an estimated 100,000 children under the age of five year and pregnant and lactating women are estimated to be at risk of acute malnutrition.
Heavy rains with winds this year have destroyed nearly a thousand homes, killing at least one person in the North Bank and leaving tens wounded, hundreds displaced and thousands affected, the Upper River and West Coast Regions being the hardest hit.