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City of Banjul
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

First Lady: Children vulnerable to abuse, neglect, violence

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In her speech marking International Women’s Day, she said: “Available evidence reveals that children and adolescents in The Gambia are extremely vulnerable to various child protection risks including risks of abuse, neglect and violence. Many of the protection-related issues that Gambian children face (e.g. harmful forms of child labour, infant abandonment, early/forced marriage, sexual abuse, FGM) are heavily under-studied, and available evidence is predominantly anecdotal in nature.

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“Nevertheless, the insights from our research confirm that child maltreatment is not uncommon, especially where there is a high level of poverty or other forms of family stress. Many work in agriculture, street hawking and domestic service which can have detrimental effect on their physical wellbeing and possible education. Parents tend to justify such action by blaming it on their economic and financial circumstances, and deem it necessary to find means of generating income for the family be using their children.”

 

Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV

The First Lady said in 2013 sub-Saharan Africa had 2.9 million children living with HIV, 2 million of them in Eastern and Southern Africa. She said out of the 210,000 new infections among children in sub Saharan Africa, 120,000 children were in Eastern and Southern Africa.

 Concerning The Gambia, she said: “There is a national and global drive to stem new HIV infections, particularly through the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). The Gambia continues to register progress in PMTCT. In 2013, for instance, 50,251 pregnant women were tested and received their post-test HIV results. Out of the 50,251, 773 tested positive of which 729 were provided with PMTCT ARV prophylaxis to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies. Although remarkable progress is made on PMTCT, the situation indicates that a lot more needs to be done, particularly with regard to male involvement, adherence to treatment, resource mobilization, stigma, discrimination and geographical coverage.”

 

Early Child Marriage

On the issue of early child marriage, she postulated that Gambian girls are highly vulnerable to early marriage and forced marriage is a long-standing tradition in The Gambia.

She said: “Although research is scant, data from MICS 2010 finds that almost 9 per cent of girls are married under Sharia law before the age of 15, and 46.5 per cent before 18, with the poorest rural girls most vulnerable to the practice. Child marriage has been reported in all rural communities we interviewed, with girls ‘as young as 11 and 12 years of age being “given” away to older husbands against their will’.”

 

Cervical Cancer

Madam Jammeh noted that in rural Gambia, the prevalence of cervical cancer amongst women of reproductive age was found to be 7% and for HPV, the rate of infection was 13%. HPV 16 sero-type was the most prevalent and is mostly associated with cervical cancer.

“Even though the Government is making a lot of effort, major challenges faced in the fight against cancers affecting women include inadequate staff for screening, diagnosis and treatment, access to affordable services for screening and limited services for treatment in terms of equipment and anti-cancer drugs.”

 

Ending AIDS BY 2030

Madam Jammeh said the ending of AIDS will only come “if we focus on transformative and innovative interventions for young women and girls”.

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