The Republic of the Gambia, on the North Atlantic Coast of West Africa, is the smallest country on the African mainland. Since 2003, the population has grown by 36 percent to almost 2 million people. Increasing urbanisation has seen a shift of 12 percent of the rural population to the urban areas. As of 2013, 57 percent of population live in urban areas where almost 35 percent of residents were estimated to be living in sub-standard conditions. The Gambia is classified as a low-income, food-deficit country; about one tenth of its population is food insecure, and almost one in three Gambians are vulnerable to food insecurity.
In common with southern Senegal, which surrounds it on three sides, the Gambia’s climate is characterized by short rainy seasons. Agriculture, under-resourced and conducted at subsistence level, is increasingly affected by climate change, with extreme weather events and rising sea levels driving down already unpredictable output.
Domestic cereal production meets only 60 percent of needs and the population relies heavily on food imports. Over the past decade, the retail price of imported rice has almost doubled. Economic indicators suggest that since 2013 poverty has increased. 48.6 percent of The Gambia’s population live on less than $1.25 a day.
There is little diversification, with foreign exchange earnings mostly derived from groundnut exports, tourism and remittances. The Gambia has long run a negative trade balance. When the Ebola outbreak struck its neighbours in 2014, net imports increased by almost one third due to the impact of regional movement restrictions on trade and tourism. The crisis coincided with a poor harvest, resulting in food prices reaching record levels.
Chronic food insecurity has resulted in high malnutrition rates. In 2015, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition was found to have increased to 10.3 percent – up 0.4 percent since 2012. National stunting rates were recorded at a critical 24.9 percent with the Kerewan, Basse, Kuntaur and Janjanbureh areas recording rates above the national average. Only 59 percent of the Gambia’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities.
WFP has been present in the Gambia since 1970. In partnership with the national Government and donors including the European Union, Japan, Brazil, Republic of Korea, the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), and USAID, WFP supports Gambians in need through food assistance, including school meals, food and cash transfers.
What the World Food Programme is doing in the Gambia
WFP is working to reduce the prevalence of underweight and malnutrition in vulnerable communities. Targeting 144,500 people recovering from recurrent drought and floods, this involves the provision of highly nutritious foods to children under five and nursing mothers, as well as nutrition awareness activities to encourage dietary diversification and healthy feeding practices. WFP is also assisting communities affected by the 2016 heavy rainfalls and flooding through an emergency food assistance (cash based transfers) to 10, 000 people in need.
WFP is helping the Government establish a home-grown school meals programme in areas where malnutrition is high and school attendance low. This is part of an integrated intervention, also involving UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). It addresses the health and nutrition needs of more than 100,000 students; promotes school gardens; and boosts smallholder production through commodity purchases.
Building resilience to climate change
WFP is supporting government efforts to build communities’ capacity for climate resilience. As Chair of the UN Disaster Management Group, WFP also assists in coordinating a harmonized disaster preparedness and response