By Alagie Manneh
In a disaster-ravaged multiple-building compound in the north of the capital Banjul, Aisha Nyang, 26, joined a handful of her neighbours to eat lunch. It has been like that since August last year when the country suffered its worst flooding ‘in nearly half a century’. di
Lawmaker for Banjul North helps to pump the flood water out of the compound
Aisha Nyang talks about the impact of the floods on her family “We had lost everything,” said Aisha, washing her hands.
Indiscriminate dumping and poor drainage systems are said to be contributing factors
Mr Badjie talks about the significance of LDC5 to the Gambia’s development Two hundred and seventy-six millimeters of rain fell in two days in the capital Banjul, according to the Department of Water Resources. Hundreds of houses have been completely or partially damaged and cannot be lived in without risk, it added.
But that is a risk Aisha and her family are forced to take. “We have nowhere else to run to. We had to move out to a government facility that was housing displaced families, but that was temporary, and we had no choice but to come back here with all the risks.
A once relatively thriving low-income family, Aisha said they have nothing to their name now. “I was living here with my mother, grandmother, and siblings. We were seven, and we lived here for 10 years. But the floods destroyed our house, furniture, and clothing. It took everything. Now we take each day as it comes.”
At almost knee high, the floods caused devastating consequences
Residents are exposed to diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, malaria, and others.
Aisha’s mother was forced to leave the country to resettle in Guinea with few of her children.
“The government gave us some money, clothes, mattresses, and toiletries,” said Aisha. “They also gave us some food and some cooking oil. But some people say the items did not come from the government, that they were donated.”
Lamin Biram Bah, the lawmaker for Banjul North, said his people had never experienced a destruction of such magnitude.
“The entire situation is very devastating,” he said. He pointed out indiscriminate dumping and poor drainage systems as contributing factors. “Some people call it a natural disaster because it is climate related, but I see it as a man-made disaster. Situations like this could have been avoided. It is important for us to put up proper mechanisms to ensure such a situation doesn’t re-occur. Because we have seen how devastating it was, how families were displaced, and how pregnant women suffered. As lawmakers, we will do all that we can to remedy the situation,” he promised.
Remains of a bed-set
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), has said that 11 people had died and more than 5,000 internally displaced, blaming climate change for the extreme weather.
The Gambia is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including floods, storms, drought, cold spells, sea level rise, and heatwaves, according to the World Bank. The island capital of Banjul is positioned on a peninsula where the River Gambia flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Under its Istanbul Programme of Action, The Gambia recommended that, to tackle its climate problems, it must promote capacity building in specialised areas relevant to environment and natural resources; promote collaboration and awareness raising with its relevant partners and stakeholders and; investing in building the resilience of communities through the establishment of strong infrastructure amongst others.
According to Omar Badjie, the director of industry, investment and enterprise development at the trade ministry, these recommendations will come to the fore when the country join partners to participate in the upcoming 5th UN Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDC5) to be held in Qatar from March 5-9 this year.
There, world leaders will meet with the private sector, civil society, parliamentarians, development partners, and young people to ‘advance new ideas’, and deliver on the promise and ambition of the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA). The DPoA “manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society, and governments at all levels”. It includes six key focus areas: Investing in people, eradicating poverty and building capacity; leveraging the power of science, technology & innovation; supporting structural transformation as a driver of prosperity; enhancing international trade and regional integration; tackling climate change, Covid-19 & building resilience and; mobilising international partnerships for sustainable graduation.
Mr Badjie harped on the significance of the DPoA’s priority areas for The Gambia, and said that the country has to localise, domesticate, and mainstream them in its National Development Plan (NDP).
“The DPoA is the overarching priority area, and every LDC including The Gambia must see themselves in it. If you look at the validated NDP, you will see a lot on the DPoA. Even for the ministries of Finance and Trade, most of our policies have to be in line with the DPoA,” he explained.
He said The Gambia intends to hold a series of side meetings with stakeholders and other partners soliciting support for its NDP. “We have one of the best climate change and adaptation policies. [But] our issue is funding.”
He said the country also has plans to meet with green movements, come up with policies and programmes for the capital Banjul as the one of the most vulnerable cities in the world in terms of climate change. But to effectively tackle the small West African county’s climate problems, Mr Badjie said the country’s mitigation plans must first be rolled out and supported, reminding that climate change mitigation and adaptation is capital-intensive.