By Omar Bah
The Gambia government has been told to remain firm and take full responsibility of the looming food crisis in the country.Noël Marie Zagré said the Barrow government must not continue entirely relying on foreign partners.“This is something that needs to be in the hands of the government and not in the hands of partners who are coming in and out, because if you leave it with the partners it will never end and that is not helpful,” the Unicef regional nutrition advisor for West and Central Africa exclusively told The Standard.He said: “It is not the entire country that is affected, it is just part of the country in some hotspot where this risk has been identified, so the first thing to do is for the government to take full control of it. The leadership should be in the hands of the government.“We have seen from our last year experience when we had problem of food insecurity and malnutrition in six countries which are the G5 countries plus Senegal with an expected number of 1.6 million malnourish children for the year. We put in place combined actions from government, NGOs, UN agencies and also academics. It was really nice to see how the governments were striving to respond by putting ahead their own action in terms of improving food availability and access by sometimes subsidising or providing free food to the most vulnerable population.“It is important for the government to understand that they should take the lead and the rest are just there to help,” he added.The Gambia, he added, has already put in place excellent programs that have been shared with them, adding that they are confident that the country has competent people who can lead in managing the crisis. “There is no doubt about that,” he said.
Situation of food security in West AfricaThe Unicef representative said in some African countries currently there are some important food security situations, “but yet their nutrition status is alarming because nutrition is impacted by so many factors not only limited to food insecurity.“In Africa, 28% of adolescent girls give birth before the age of eighteen which is absolutely alarming and universally in West and Central Africa we have seen an increase by six million from 23 million to 29 million children affected by malnutrition. This is why there was a common recognition that we need to change our strategy so that we can expect some changes in the future. So this is the situation and is really a problem that instead of moving forward we are moving backward.