Children, women and vulnerable groups in Gambia to benefit from an inclusive social protection system
BANJUL, Gambia, 5 December 2013 – On 3 December 2013, under the leadership of the Government of Gambia, in collaboration with the UN system and the Association of Non-governmental Organizations (TANGO), Gambia concluded a Second Consultative Forum on Social Protection to find ways of integrating existing but fragmented social protection schemes targeting vulnerable groups.
Almost half of Gambia’s population (48.8%) live on less than US$1.25 a day, Children and women are the most affected by poverty, hunger and inaccessibility to basic social services and social protection structures. They are often unable to realize basic human rights such as the right to good food, education, health and protection as well as overcome social and economic inequality and inequity which increases their exposure to risks and vulnerabilities.
Gambia has been moving progressively towards the establishment of an integrated and inclusive social protection system to ensure that the most deserving groups are reached with holistic and effective programmes that will allow them to overcome challenges that often supress their full potential in a changing social and economic world, while empowering the population for better resilience.
“Social Protection is not a novelty for Gambia; it has been a policy priority for the Government for many years now,” stated H. E. Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice-President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of Gambia at the Forum.
Since the first Forum held in 2012, the country has made much progress, including the generation of knowledge and evidence on the national social protection system, through mapping and analysis, to inform the establishment of better cohesive social protection programmes for those affected. Government institutions and civil society organizations have been capacitated for a deeper understanding of social protection, and the national partnership on social protection, comprising three government ministries and six UN agencies, was reinforced in March 2013 with the signing of a multi-party Memorandum of Understanding. In addition, social protection expenditures will be made a priority in the 2014-2016 Mid-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Despite these breakthroughs, H. E. the Vice-President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of Gambia recognized the “notable gaps in the system related to fragmentation, scope, coverage and financing, as well as institutional weaknesses in design and delivery of programmes” which, she pointed out, “limits the system’s effectiveness”.
The Second Consultative Forum on Social Protection, with the theme “From Fragmentation to Integration, from Exclusion to Inclusion”, therefore provided a platform for over 100 participants – representing senior policy-makers, civil society, researchers and development partners – to map out ways of effectively integrating social protection programmes while maintaining national dialogue on social protection.
The UN Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNICEF Representative in Gambia, Ms. Josefa Marrato, affirms that “the UN stands ready to draw on its global expertise and support the Government of Gambia in its efforts to reform the social protection system”.
Recognizing the challenges involved in integrating the existing social protection schemes while including the most excluded and vulnerable groups, Gambia, in 2014, will focus on the development of a National Social Protection Policy and Operational Plan, and a minimum package of essential services, as recommended by the African Union Social Policy Framework for Africa (2008). The Policy, as intended, would adopt a harmonized and equitable approach to system development and strengthening, be tailored to the country context, and developed under the leadership of the National Social Protection Steering Committee, with support from the UN System and other development partners.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs of Gambia has expressed his Ministry’s intention to allocate resources to support the initiative, and the UN system, in collaboration with other partners, will continue to support the capacity building of government and civil society stakeholders while facilitating the South-South cooperation and knowledge sharing on social protection.
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Sally Sadie Singhateh, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Gambia,