By Olimatou Coker
The commissioner of the Gambia Commission for Refugees, Louis Mendy, has stressed that coranavirus is a global health crisis, dismissing allegations in some quarters that the pandemic is used as a political tool for financial gains.
Speaking at the launching of GAFNA Covid-19 emergency response initiative for refugees and other persons of concern(PoCs) in Sibanor, Mendy explained that the commission has involved refugees in the fight against Covid-19 through awareness campaigns as part of measures in empowering them in the face of the global pandemic.
The launching saw the distribution of 50 buckets and detergents to 41 communities in Foni and it was meant for isolated refugee host communities in the rural area.
According to him since the arrival of the refugees in the community of Sibanor, they have been enjoying support of the community.
“The Gambia Commission for Refugees and its partners are grateful for granting the refugees access to land, housing and agricultural purposes.”
He pointed out that most of the refugee population in The Gambia are reliant on farming or petty trading as sources of income.
He added the GCR recently conducted a one-week awareness campaign for refugees from the 23 -27 on COVID-19 preventive measures.
He explained that this COVID-19 relief project by GAFNA is to ensure that no refugee is left behind in such difficult times.
Chief of Foni Bintang, Lamin Jobarteh, expressed delight in receiving the buckets, detergents and other forms of support in the fight against Covid-19.
Chief Jobarteh urged the general public to join hands in the fight against this global pandemic and thanked GAFNA and partners for ‘taking such a brilliant step’ in reaching out to his community in this hard time.
For his part, Yusufa J. Gomez, Executive Director of GAFNA, said COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of the refugees and other Persons of Concern (PoCs) to UNHCR, hence GAFNA has devised some practical means to contribute to curbing the effects of the pandemic on refugees and their host communities.
“Today is a day we think we need to come to Sibanor here to do a formal launching for COVID-19 emergency response for refugees and other Persons of Concerns (PoCs) to UNHCR.”
He explained that UNHCR and GAFNA through funding from United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) felt it necessary to review their 2020 budget in the wake of this deadly pandemic so that they can kindly respond to needy and the most vulnerable refugees and persons of concerns.
According to Director Gomez, they are reaching out to 110 refugees and Persons of Concerns, 60 vulnerable refugees in the urban area, 35 in the rural area and 15 asylum seekers by giving out monetary and food aid.
He revealed that GAFNA will in coming days and weeks implement and execute cash transfers using the UNHCR cash-based intervention to 110 selected vulnerable refugees and Persons of Concerns(PoCs), urban and rural based refugees and asylum seekers to enable them take care of immediate family needs during the pandemic lockdown.
GAFNA boss also disclosed that his agency will conduct sensitisation activities in selected major rural refugee host communities and with the community radios of Bwiam community and Kairoo community radio on the spread and control of the virus. These interventions, he adds, are all geared towards complementing the efforts of the ministry of health as, in his words, government cannot do it all.
Lamin Sanneh, Governor of WCR, said the refugee commission has been in The Gambia for a while now and have been doing everything possible to safeguard the wellbeing of the refugees.
Musa Colley, President of Refugee Sofora Association in delivering the vote of thanks, expressed gratitude to the media for its usual Covid-19 pandemic updates.
He thanked GAFNA, UNHCR and other partners for taking a brilliant step in helping make life easy for refugees.
Other speakers on the occasion included Binta Sey-Jadama, National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) Regional Coordinator.