By Alagie Manneh
Hundreds of people have in recent weeks been visiting and camping around the Senegambia area to receive cash handouts reportedly donated by a UK-based charity.
The group, visiting the area for weeks now, included imams, people with disabilities, women and children.
Some of them said they spent nights in the area anticipating to receive money, in some cases D15,000 per person.
The money was donated by the Umma Welfare Trust (UTW), an international relief and development charity. It is not clear how much the charity donated in total.
“I have no rice at home, and did not cook this morning. I am from Bundung,” Sira Jaiteh, a desperate mother told The Standard.
Madam Jaiteh said her husband died last year, leaving her to care for all of their eight children.
“…I want to buy rice. Just help me with anything you have. Even if I can’t have the entire money, I need help to buy rice,” she appealed.
Others come from Somita, Fulladu among other places.
An elderly lady, who made a makeshift bed under a shade, told The Standard she came from the provinces and has been waiting for days to receive her share. “I have seen soldiers receive the money here. Some of us want to go home but we have no fare. I have not eaten all day today.”
One man, identified as an imam, also expressed his frustration over the matter. He alleged that some who did not fit the criteria have got money.
Kaddy Sanneh, a woman from Tanji, said: “I am here for my husband, a disable who couldn’t come himself. He is sick and he needs the money, but for more than a week now we couldn’t receive anything. We need help.”
The group blamed AMANA, the umbrella body for all Madrassa education providers in The Gambia, for the chaos in the distribution of the relief package.
However, AMANA said people misconstrued the purpose of the Covid-relief funds.
“The money is not for everyone. The money is for teachers in the Madrassas, imams and their deputies,” a senior official of AMANA, who did not want to be named in the story, told The Standard.
He said the funds came to support Madrassas and imams in the wake of difficulties induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“UTW asked for a list of names of all Madrassa teachers including mosques and imams in the country. We have over 5000 imams in The Gambia. After a survey we conducted, we gave them our list and they paid accordingly,” he explained.
The AMANA official said the list was later expanded to include members of associations for the disable and the blind.
“Interestingly,” he went on, “these associations suddenly started to see an influx in their membership. Suddenly, everybody registered to be part of these organisations. I think that’s what the issue here is.”
He urged the aggrieved parties to be reasonable and realise that the money is not for everyone.
“Let them not bring us into disrepute by saying all those things which are not true. I think their intention is to damage our credibility and that of Islam,” the AMANA official said.