In her remarks marking the official conclusion of the food aid distribution programme by government amidst COVID-19, the Gambia Vice President Dr Isatou Touray expressed gratitude to President Adama Barrow for “providing the enabling environment that led to the successful conclusion of one of the biggest food distribution exercise Gambia has ever conducted in response to the food insecurity challenges of the pandemic”.
Here is the text of the full remark delivered at the McCarty Square in Banjul:
Few weeks ago, we were all wondering what would befell the Gambian population particularly the vulnerable and marginalised in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide, the public emergency regulations restricting social and economic activities have ushered in a situation of desperation and anxiety among the general public whose survival was threatened by simmering food insecurity due largely to dependence on imported food items. The Gambia has witnessed a serious threat to nationhood as the COVID-19 crept in with associated dangers of consuming the most active population and bringing all economic activities to a standstill.
Today we are gathered here to express our gratitude to His Excellency the President Mr Adama Barrow for providing the enabling environment that led to the successful conclusion of one of the biggest food distribution exercise Gambia has ever conducted in response to the food insecurity challenges of the pandemic. As the chairperson of the cabinet COVID sub-committee, I am indeed delighted to give a remarks at the closure of this noble course that has brought joy to many households in the country.
In times of uncertainties and emergencies, welfare states provide social assistance to its people through various means. The bailout strategies although temporary in most cases, are introduced to tackle the most pressing needs of the population. The Gambia government and partners in this regard, have seen the COVID social response as a national priority at this material time when there is a global economic crisis threatening the livelihoods of the global populations. This current situation if left unchecked, could further deepen the already poverty and food insecurity situation of the country. We thank His Excellency President Barrow for making the right decision to support his population in these difficult times.
As we move through the ravages of COVID-19, more remains to be desired for. The human cost of the food crisis in times of emergencies could be enormous. With the COVID pandemic blowing the embers of despair, surging unemployment and joblessness, could expose thousands of families in the Gambia to threats of poverty and hunger.
At all times, food and nutritional security are the foundations of a decent life, a sound education and means to achieving the National Development Goals.
In anticipation of the short-term impact of the COVID pandemic, the government of the Gambia responded with the greatest-ever food assistance operation that targeted almost 84% of the urban population and 100% of the rural population. These are short-term social protection measures which are unprecedented and impactful. However, such measures most often are not sustainable as the cost if persistent could seriously affect the drivers of economic growth.
As we have learnt lessons from the exercise, it is time to ensure that we have the means to feed ourselves and, most especially, to safeguard the poorest and most vulnerable. We must ensure safety nets for those who cannot afford food and support the small businesses during this critical time of desperation.
We must transform our agricultural development process, markets and how food is distributed. We must do so based on a thorough understanding of the issues. That is one of surest means of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and fulfill our development aspirations as a sovereign state, Distinguish ladies and gentlemen.
To find longer-term solutions to our food insecurity, we need predictable increases in funding to develop sustainable food systems that can withstand shocks such as an economic crisis or disease pandemics that cause economic paralysis. The government of the Gambia is therefore determined to ensure a coordinated approach to food security issues, in particular at all levels.
Today I am certain that the food distribution exercise in most parts of the country have either been completed or is nearing completion while others have started.
I must say that we should not be complacent as the number of COVID-19 cases is on the increase in the Gambia. It is alive and could spread like a wildfire. Therefore, I call on all and sundry to exercise social distancing and also assist the security forces in enforcing the public emergency regulations. Let us be our own police men and women in reporting any suspected case of COVID-19 and mitigate any potentials that could further spread the virus.
I therefore call on all to engage in sensitisation to spread the mantra on COVID-19 prevention. In conclusion I must register on behalf of His Excellency the President our profound gratitude and appreciation to all the foot soldiers who stood by us in getting the much-needed food aid to both rural and urban downtrodden. Our special thanks go to all men and women in uniform who have spent sleepless nights in providing security at McCarthy Square. To those security officers who also accompany the vehicles for distribution of food items, we thank you for your patriotism.
Your role at these critical moments of our history is gigantic and exemplary. Our appreciation goes to those patrolling the national borders and those frontliners providing essential services at the COVID treatment and quarantine centers.
My cabinet colleagues have played a wonderful role in getting the pieces together for the successful implementation of the COVID-19 programme. They deserve a big thumps-up for the efforts in providing policy and strategic direction.
At this juncture, I am pleased to introduce to you the National COVID-19 response Coordinator, Mr Alasan Senghore, whose role will be to facilitate the implementation of the COVID-19 Programme in terms of health as well as humanitarian dimension of the COVID response; working closely with the
NDMA whose mandate is to respond to disasters.
I must commend the regional Governors and the area council functionaries who tirelessly provided data and the wherewithal for the successful distribution of food items at the regional level. To the Chiefs and Alkalolus for engaging and taking leadership in the food distribution leaving no one behind in their communities.
Our thanks go to the NDMA and DSPD staff for providing the technical framework for guiding the distribution process to ensure accountability and transparency.
I applaud the private sector and the business fraternity for answering to our call when their services were much needed. More especially to the women entrepreneurs who were able to provide supplies of food items in real time despite the challenges. I also recognise and appreciate the efforts of the youths for providing loading and off-loading food items as well as the various transporters for transporting the food across the regions. I implore the media to support the course as the disease is poised to threaten our existence as a civilisation.
I once again want to thank: • Hon Ministers and members of the covid-19 sub-committee • The security forces • The frontline health care providers • The various Institutions involved in managing the process • The Gambia Printing Press • The NDMA, and entire logistics team • Trade, Agriculture, Finance, MOWCSW, Central Bank, the offices of Accountant General, Internal Audit, the Red Cross • Governors and Mayors across the Regions as well as Chiefs, Alkalos and their communities. • The various enterprises that facilitated the supplies of food. SME, MSME’s, importers • Transporters and laborers • The Ports Authority • Young people • DSPD and Permanent Secretary’s • Chiefs, Alkalos and Communities • OVP staff and the Cabinet Sub-committee on Covid-19
With special thanks to his Excellency President Barrow for responding generously and responsibly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I thank you all for your kind attention.