The Gambia has an estimated population of 1.3 million, which is growing at a rate of 4.2 per cent per annum. Nearly 49 per cent of the Gambia's population is below 18 years of age, with 19 per cent age 15 to 24, and 22 per cent of women age 15 to 49. Approximatly 69 per cent of the population is below the poverty line. In rural areas, 60 per cent of households are extremely poor. The highest levels of poverty are found in the Central River Division (CRD), Lower River Division (LRD) and Upper River Division (URD).
The involvement of youth in breaking the culture of silence surrounding HIV/AIDS has provided a useful strategy. Building on this experience, the UNICEF addresses critical but sensitive issues such as arranged and early marriages, teenage pregnancy and violence against girls and women. In cooperation with civil society organizations and other development partners, effective community participation has been harnessed to increase enrolment and retention of girls in school. The innovative Baby-Friendly Community Initiative demonstrated that breastfeeding promotion not only mobilizes communities and families to protect, support and promote exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, but can also be an effective entry point for other community-based activities.
Integration of basic services for the provision of water and sanitation in primary schools has made schools more secure and girl-friendly, which favours access and retention.
In collaboration with NGOs, youth and development partners, UNICEF :