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The Government of the Gambia and United Nations join forces to strengthen social protection systems in the country

Banjul, The Gambia, 28th March 2013 – The Government of The Gambia, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), World Food Programme (WFP), International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), on Tuesday, 26 March 2013, signed the first ever in the history of the country a wide-ranging Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Social Protection.

In the MoU, nine institutions have committed themselves to intensify their partnership in order to support The Gambia in the adoption of inclusive and integrated social protection systems – the set of public and private policies and programmes aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating economic and social vulnerabilities to poverty and deprivation.

The agreement, signed until 2016 with possibility of further extension, foresees cooperation in the areas of research and capacity building, strengthening institutional frameworks, development of a national policy and a basic package of social protection – the set of minimum guarantees to protect vulnerable people, including children, women, disabled, the poor, people living with HIV/AIDS, the unemployed, and to also facilitate their access to essential social services, such as health, water and sanitation, education, food and nutrition security, housing, and others. The partners have also agreed to cooperate in identifying fiscal space – the room in a government’s budget that allows for providing maximum available resources for social protection.

In his opening speech, read on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and National Assembly Matters, Mrs. Mathilda Bouy, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare of The Gambia, Honourable Bala Garba-Jahumpa said, “The Government of The Gambia recognizes the key role of social protection in securing people against extreme poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and uncertainty about the future.” Highlighting the importance of this multi-lateral agreement, Honourable Garba-Jahumpa stressed that “Working with the UN development partners together, we can make a significant impact on the lives of vulnerable people in the country.

The UN Resident Coordinator a.i. in The Gambia, Dr Babagana Ahmadu, on behalf of the UN System stated, “This is more than just a Memorandum of Understanding. This document reflects the political will, genuine commitment and strong partnership between the Government of The Gambia and the UN System to promote the right of people to social protection. Today we can proudly say that the roots of the Social Protection Floor have been established in The Gambia.” Dr. Ahmadu also affirmed that “The UN agencies stand ready to provide meaningful technical support to the Government of The Gambia in its efforts to progressively adopt integrated and inclusive social protection systems, and advance development.

The Gambia is the smallest and one of the least developed countries in mainland Western Africa, partly located in the Sahel region. According to the 2010 Integrated Household Survey, at least half of its population, 48.8%, live on less than USD$1.25 a day. The poor and most vulnerable people, especially the young ones, do not have adequate access to basic social protection as the existing schemes are rather limited in their scope and coverage, and the system in general is extremely fragmented, ad-hoc and underfinanced. To compound these, compared to other countries in the region, there are only a few donors present in the country with exceptionally scarce development aid available.

Recognizing all these challenges, the Government of The Gambia and the UN System decided to unite and join efforts, resources and expertise to support the most needy and disadvantaged collectively. Social protection has risen in prominence in political dialogue in The Gambia through laudable policy developments such as the assembly of the Social Protection Consultative Forum in November 2012 and the establishment of the National Social Protection Steering Committee, both of which mark important steps towards reform in the sector.

All of these, including the signed MoU, are just the beginning of a long, but rather promising process to bring forth long-term benefits to the people of The Gambia. The intended output is for collaboration, as expected, to be results-focused and innovative, with the UN System technical expertise complementing the ministries’ leadership and know-how in areas jointly defined as priority to develop social protection systems in The Gambia.

Editors Notes


UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

About UNDP:

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. Our focus is helping countries build and share solutions to achieve Poverty Reduction and the Millennium Development Goals, Democratic Governance, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development. UNDP helps developing countries attract and use aid effectively. In all our activities, we encourage the protection of human rights, capacity development and the empowerment of women.

For more information about UNDP and its work visit: 


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners to maximize results for the AIDS response.

Learn more at and
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About WFP:

World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and for over 40 years, WFP has been present in The Gambia providing school meals and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in an effort to eradicate hunger and attain food security. WFP is currently the lead agency for food security and emergency response in The Gambia and this includes capacity building within the Government and other stakeholders for sustainability and effectiveness. All contributions to the agency are voluntary from the donor community, international corporations and individuals.

For more information about WFP and its work visit:

About ILO:

The ILO is the international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards. It is the only 'tripartite' United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting Decent Work for all.The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946.

Learn more about ILO at

About IMF:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. The IMF's fundamental mission is to help ensure stability in the international system. It does so in three ways: keeping track of the global economy and the economies of member countries; lending to countries with balance of payments difficulties; and giving practical help to members.

Learn more about ILO at


For more information, please contact:

Ms. Faniya Mussayeva, Social Policy Specialist (UNICEF The Gambia)

Tel.: +220 449 477

Ms. Sally Sadie Singhateh, Communication Specialist
(UNICEF The Gambia)

Tel.: +220 449 5006


Mr Nuha Ceesay, Country Coordinator (UNAIDS The Gambia)
Tel.: +220 449 8235

Mr Lamin Camara, Programme Assistant (UNAIDS The Gambia)
Tel.: +220 376 0080


Ms Isatou Nasir Cham National Programme Officer (WFP The Gambia)
Tel. + 220 766 6777


Ms Isatou Njai, Public Information Assistant (WFP The Gambia)      
Tel. + 220 766 6777


Mr Abdou Touray. Programme Specialist (UNDP The Gambia)

Tel. + 220 4494789

Mr Alexander da Costa, Finance, Resource Mobilisation and Communication Specialist (UNDP The Gambia)

Tel. + 220 333 8282


Mr Dennis Zulu, Deputy Director ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, The Gambia & Liaison Officer for ECOWAS (ILO Nigeria)

Tel. +234 809 599 5933


Mr Tamsir Cham, Economist (IMF The Gambia)
Tel. +220 3330019

Ms Isatou Njie Senior Administrative Assistant (IMF The Gambia)
Tel. +220 3330017



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