The forum organised by Raid The Gambia, an anti-tobacco organisation with funding from American Cancer Society was held at Laico Atlantic Hotel.
Deputy Director of Health Promotion and Education, Muhammed Saho said: “Tobacco control is a very difficult task requiring a lot of financial resources as well as support from all stakeholders to control it. The meeting is to solicit support to ratify the national tobacco control policy and to endorse the 3% tax to be allocated to tobacco control activities in the country .To achieve the goal of a Gambia free from tobacco, the collaborative efforts of all is required to address tobacco issues. The Ministry of Health is committed to the issue of tobacco control in The Gambia”.
Sambujang Conteh, the executive director of Raid reminded lawmakers that The Gambia is a signatory to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which had a positive response from the Gambian communities who recommended its implementation. This, he said, cannot be done without policy and legislative documents.
“The Gambia was represented at the meeting and some key commitments were undertaken including intensifying and increasing resource mobilisation and allocation to tobacco control measures at the national level. At that meeting, UN agencies and state parties committed to consider prevention and education on tobacco use as a development priority,” Conteh said.
Citing article 26 of the FCTC which urges governments to provide financial resources in achieving the objective of the convention through national awareness programs, Mr Conteh said: “That is why the Ministry of Health requested an allocation of 3% of the tax collected from tobacco from the Ministry of Finance to the NCD Unit of the health ministry for tobacco control activities”.
The deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Fatou Mbaye said: “NAMs represent the masses and have the interest of those people. The select committee on health is looking into various issues affecting men, women and children. Collecting data and research are very important because the real situation is not yet known and enhanced understanding will help us to make more informed decisions .We are not an implementing agency but can play an advocacy role because of our mandate. The welfare of people, especially health, is our concern”.
The Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) focal person at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Omar Badjie, lamented the increase in NCDs He put this down to tobacco consumption which he cited as part of the risk factors.
“Tobacco control activities need many resources and as at now, we have insufficient funds for effective tobacco control. Parents must desist from sending minors either to buy cigarettes or to light it .They must avoid smoking in the presence of family members, particularly children, as it affects their health just like it affected the smokers. This encourages them to become smokers which is a bad behaviour and putting the population at risk,” Badjie said.]]>