By Omar Bah
Tostan Gambia Chapter, a registered non-governmental organisation is leading the fight against Covid-19 in the Upper River Region. The NGO has since the report of three cases in the region intensified its response to contain the spread of the virus.
The community led non-formal education and community development project which operates community empowerment programs in 6 African countries began its programs in The Gambia in 2007 in partnership with UNICEF in over 150 communities in URR.
Edrisa Keita, National Coordinator of TOSTAN, The Gambia said his institution has initiated a strategic plan to support government’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“All we are doing is to support the efforts of government to fight the Covid-19. We are doing this through our community empowerment program using the country’s local languages…Part of the programs we have what we call hygiene and health which suits the Covid-19 perfectly,” he told The Standard.
He said as part of their activities they sensitise people on the importance of hand wash using soap, detergent and dentols.
“We have intensified our work across the board as one of the strategies to prevent ourselves from the Coronavirus as members of the regional Covid-19 respond committee in the region. We have meetings and updates within the region in terms of sensitisation and distribution of materials to various communities,” he added.
He said they also have radio programs every two days at the GRTS in Basse.
“We have been conducting this since the outbreak of the Covid-19 trying to reach out to over 200 communities to prevail on them to practice social distancing, hand washing and all the precautionary measures recommended by the WHO. We also encourage them to read newspapers and listen to other radio stations and televisions to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge about Covid-virus,” he said.
Keita said they also have a WhatsApp group where they sensitise and feed people with the right information they gather from the ministry of health.
“We are aware that factual information is very important in the fight against the virus. We use the group to discuss extensively on the preventive methods and the dangers of the virus and this is working very effectively,” he said.
He said they have a good number of buckets in almost all communities in the region.
“We now want to ensure that we provide the Covid-19 regional committee with enough detergents, dentols and fuel to ensure sure that they travel on time to the border communities,” he said.
Keita said although they have not started donating food materials, he is not ruling out that possibility in the future.
“The issue is if we want to give out food, we have to give it to all the 300 communities in the region and as we speak, we don’t have that money. This is why we are trying to support them through preventive measures liaising with the National Assembly members in the area,” he said.
He said Tostan organises group talks and offers training that empowers people to head social change and development programs within their local urban and rural communities.
“The institution’s ultimate aim is to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. These are tackling issues related to poverty and hunger, primary education, gender equality and empowering women, maternal health, child mortality, HIV / Aids, malaria and disease, environmental sustainability and global partnership,” he added.
The NGO is also implementing a Peace and Security Project in 40 communities in The Gambia, southern Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. They also give community development grants to help fund community development projects as well as to establish CMC-run microcredit funds.