By Lamin Fatty
The ministry of health and social welfare in partnership with NANA recently launched BReST, acronym for Building Resilience through Social Protection for Nutrition Security in the Gambia. BReST is a UNICEF project funded by European Union. The launching of this project was done at the Basse Regional Hospital in URR and was witnessed by regional health officials, senior government officials, representatives from the UN system, local authorities, mothers, traditional Kanyalengos and the media.
The Governor of URR Madam Fatou Jammeh Touray, upon welcoming the gathering and thanking the donors said that the launching of the BReST project was timely intervention that will go a long way in improving the welfare of vulnerable like women and children. She further thanked the EU, UNICEF, NANA and DSW for their continuous collaboration and partnership and assured them of her office’s fullest support.
Dr. Momodou Waggeh, the director of health services speaking on behalf of the minister of health and social welfare, said the launching marks an important milestone in the history of social protection and health care delivery in the URR in particular and The Gambia as a whole. According to Dr.Waggeh the National health policy aims to achieve this goal through the provision of equitable, affordable and quality health and related services at the highest attainable standard to all Gambians, noting that the National Social protection policy clearly prioritized the provision of adequate health and nutrition services to vulnerable groups of society especially women and children. ‘‘Thus the project’’ he said, ‘‘came at an opportune moment, when our national social policy and strategic plan is being implemented’’. He highlighted that ‘‘the current health and nutrition profile of the Gambia shows mix results. ‘‘However’’ he continued, ‘‘the Gambia has made significant strides over the years in improving women’s wellbeing’’.
Mr. Waggeh disclosed that the Maternal Mortality Ratio within the country has reduced from 730/100,000 in 2000 to 433/100,000 live births in 2013, while the infant mortality rate also reduced from 65 percent to 34 per 1,000 live births.’’ ‘‘This shows that over the past five years, most health and nutrition outcome indicators have either stagnated or regressed especially in URR, CRR and NBR. However, some indicators such as exclusive breastfeeding, infant and child mortality and maternal mortality have improved.’’ Mr. Waggeh further disclosed. Mr.Rupert Leighton, speaking on behalf of the UNICEF country representative said the launching is a celebration for what he said is the beginning of a social protection project aimed at tackling malnutrition in children, not only by providing monthly cash transfers but the provision of nutritional education to lactating mothers. According to UNICEF deputy rep, ‘‘with the right nutritional knowledge and skills, parents can provide the right care to children which will allow children to thrive and survive as well as make them more resilient in the face of crises.’’ He expressed appreciation to the EU for providing the funding for the BReST project and for their continuous commitment and collaboration in addressing the nutrition issues of women and children in the Gambia. He thanked the national implementing partners, NANA and DSW, for their interest and hard work shown from the inception of the project and assured UNICEF’s readiness in working with them in similar projects in the future.
The Executive director of Women’s Bureau Madam Binta Jammeh Sidibeh deputizing for the minister of women’s affairs, said the aims and objectives of the BReST project is to build the resilience of the vulnerable women of URR, CRR and NBR. She said the Government of the Gambia is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security for the Gambian populace as well as investing in similar areas such as water and sanitation, education, health and economic empowerment and the provision of appropriate labor saving devices that will reduce the drudgery and workload of women. She underscored the importance of nutrition which is also recognized by the Government of the Gambia as an important pillar of national development.
A representative of Koro Jula Kunda receiving certificate as best performing community
She thanked the European Union for generously funding the project and UNICEF, NANA and DSW for their tireless efforts in the realization and implementation of the BReST project.
The ceremony was characterized by drama performance by traditional drama groups like the kanyalengos. Baja Kunda was presented with a certificate as the best performing health facility whilst Koro Jula Kunda was also presented with another certificate as the best performing community for the maternal and child health results based on the BReST project during the second quarter.