By Omar Bah
The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Jagan Chapagain, has concluded a three-day fact-finding mission to The Gambia. The mission was meant to assess projects implemented by the Gambia Red Cross Society and its response mechanisms to humanitarian issues and disasters. SG Chapagain visited Red Cross branches in KM, West Coast, North Bank, and Lower River regions and inaugurated the Red Cross’ first ever data collection centre. It helps the NDMA and Red Cross better prepare for disasters and design means to respond swiftly and efficiently. He also paid a courtesy visit to President Adama Barrow.
SG Chapagain said the purpose of his visit is to also engage with the Gambian Red Cross to better understand what they do and see how best they could strengthen their ongoing collaboration with IFRC, especially in the areas of migration.
“I have visited some Red Cross intervention areas and had the opportunity to hear from their staff and volunteers. The idea is to better understand how The Gambia has become the origin, transit, and destination of migration and the different dynamics between those three aspects of migration,” he said.
He said once they understood those dynamics, they would better elaborate their programmes with more efficiency and effectiveness in helping the migration situations, which are growing every year due to various factors.
“A lot of times the response has particularly focused on responding to migration situations rather than addressing the root causes, and this was what I wanted to understand. When I return to Geneva to reflect on some of these issues and develop more holistic approaches to the migration response, we will not only respond to the situation but also address the root causes that sort of created the situation,” he said.
SG Chapagain said his team will analyse the challenges faced by the Gambia Red Cross to understand where the gaps are and how to address them as a matter of urgency.
He said addressing the root causes and situations of migration will require a systematic approach because the movement is happening in multiple countries.
“The next move will be developing the plan, working together with partners such as the Gambia Red Cross and other Red Cross societies in the region, and coordinating other partners to distinguish the planning for the future,” he disclosed.
He said the scale of the migration situation in Africa is so big that the response to it so far has been inadequate.
“We need to scale up working in partnership with the government and its partners,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Gambia Red Cross, Babucarr Senghore, said the IFRC SG’s visit is very important because it will help him understand that addressing the situation of migration requires more than implementing short term projects but long-term projects that will go a long way towards addressing the root causes and creating more awareness-raising about the dangers associated with irregular migration. The Head of Migration Unit at the Gambia Immigration Department, Commissioner Foday Gassama, said his office continues to enjoy a very good working relationship with the Gambia Red Cross.
He said the Gambia Red Cross has erected tents and constructed toilets for the immigration branch in Tujereng to support the accommodation of migrants. He said the Red Cross also provides food and water for the migrants.
“Sometimes we intercept over 250 migrants, and we don’t have the facilities, so without the support of the Red Cross, it would have been very difficult,” he said.