The Gambia

  1. Windstorm in Gambia kills 10 and disrupts services

    A map

    A windstorm in The Gambia has killed at least 10 people, the country’s national disaster agency said on Thursday.

    At least 1,500 people have also been displaced in the overnight storm that hit the country on Wednesday.

    The storm disrupted disrupted electricity, water, and other services

    Gambian President Adama Barrow convened an emergency meeting on Thursday for an assessment of the damage across the West African country.

    “The president urges good Samaritans to support in any way they can to ease the burden on affected families while his Government assesses the needed support,” said a statement from The Gambia presidency.

  2. The Gambia eliminates trachoma as public health threat

    Chlamydia trachomatis, an obligate intracellular human pathogen, is one of four bacterial species in the genus Chlamydia. 3D illustration Landscape format Bacterium Microbiology Health Diseases
    Image caption: The disease is caused by infection from bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed The Gambia's elimination of trachoma as a public health threat, saying it will save families, including children, from blindness.

    Health workers have been urged to closely monitor the trend to "sustain the gains".

    Trachoma is caused by the chlamydia bacteria, and is spread from person to person by contaminated fingers, flies and towels. If untreated, the eyelids become chronically inflamed, and this in turn can eventually lead to blindness.

    Trachoma remains endemic in 29 countries on the African continent, according to the WHO.

    The Gambia eliminated trachoma after almost four decades of work, the government said in its announcement

    "Gambia's success in trachoma elimination starts from the community," Sarjo Kanyi, manager of The Gambia's National Eye Health Programme and coordinator of the trachoma initiative, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

    A network of eye units was set up across the country with the help of non-governmental organisations and thousands of volunteers went door-to-door to find people with the disease.

  3. Gambia's Ramadan leave-work-early memo 'sexist'

    Women in Serrekunda, Gambia - archive shot
    Image caption: Some see the move as a way of confining women to the kitchen

    A memo allowing all female civil servants in The Gambia to leave work two hours early during Ramadan has been criticised as sexist.

    From Monday to Thursday they could leave at 14:00 local time - and at 12:30 on Fridays as usual, the authorities said earlier this week at the start of the Muslim holy fasting month.

    "This is to allow female staff to attend to their traditional evening 'iftar' preparations ahead of the breaking of the fast," the statement noted.

    But gender rights activist Fatou Baldeh says the initiative is a way of confining "women to the kitchen, while men work in the office".

    "When you say women to go home early, we as Gambian women know what that means,” she told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme.

    “It means go home and prepare food for breaking the fast, so go home and prepare food for your husband, for your family.

    “If this statement was given to everyone, if they said all civil servants can go home at two o'clock that's a different thing.”

    And the fact that it had come from a government institution in the mainly Muslim West Africa country was worrying, she said.

    “We are seeing institutionalised sexism, institutionalised structures that are holding women back.”

  4. Gambia MPs uphold ban on skin bleaching

    Gambian lawmakers on Monday voted to uphold a ban on skin bleaching following a heated debate in parliament, state media reports.

    The attorney general presented the bill on the prohibition of skin bleaching for consideration, according to a list of business in parliament posted on Twitter.

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    He argued that criminalising people for using cosmetic products was an unfair punishment, the AFP news agency reports.

    But lawmakers were in favour of maintaining the ban.

    "The chemicals used in the production of skin-bleaching creams is hazardous to human health," Momodou Camara, an MP, was quoted as saying by AFP.

    The West African country banned skin bleaching in 1996 during the rule of Yahya Jammeh - who was in power for more than 20 years.

  5. Gambian alleged hit-squad driver detained in Germany

    Image caption: Gambians have long campaigned for justice for people who disappeared under Mr Jammeh's rule

    German police have detained a Gambian man who they suspect of participating in crimes against humanity as a driver for a feared paramilitary unit for former President Yahya Jammeh.

    The Federal Public Prosecutor General called the suspect just Bai L, under German privacy rules which don't allow the authorities to release the surname of suspects.

    Bai L is accused of driving officers from the paramilitary unit known as the Junglers, which has been described as a hit squad for Mr Jammeh, to locations where they fired on the president's opponents.

    One of the victims was a journalist who was a critic of Mr Jammeh's government who was shot dead in 2004 and another was a lawyer who was attacked in 2003.

    Mr Jammeh led The Gambia for 22 years and has been accused of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention.

    He was removed from power in 2017 and the Gambian government set up a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate the alleged rights violations.

    Read more: How Gambia is grappling with gruesome past under Yahya Jammeh

  6. Gambian migrant takes his Sicilian mother back home

    Ismail Einashe

    Letter from Africa

    Muhammed Sanneh (R) and his foster mother Giusella Ferraro (L)
    Image caption: The pair have been given Gambian outfits as welcome gifts

    A young orphaned migrant fostered by a family in Italy has taken his foster mother to meet his grandmother in The Gambia.

    Last year I wrote a BBC Letter from Africa about how Muhammed Sanneh had taken the perilous journey to the Italian island of Sicily aged 16.

    His life took an unexpected turn after he had arrived in 2015, when he was fostered by the close-knit Ferraro family who live in the town of Favara in the south of the island.

    Last month, the young man, who prefers to go by his childhood nickname of Lexy, made the reverse journey with his foster mother Giusella Ferraro - this time by aeroplane.

    Like thousands of young Gambians, Lexy had made the arduous trip to Italy so that he could find a way to financially support his two younger siblings and grandmother.

    They now live in Serekunda, the largest urban centre in The Gambia - and he and his foster mother have been spending time with them.

    He tells me he is extremely happy to be back home - talking, eating and rekindling his bond with his family that he has not seen in years.

    Muhammed Sanneh (R) and his foster mother Giusella Ferraro (L) standing by an ancient tree in The Gambia
    Image caption: Lexy has been showing Giusella famous sites in The Gambia

    The experience has not been all smiles, he says, as it has felt “extremely emotional” to be back, but the warm welcome has made it worth it.

    The best bit has been introducing Giusella to his family. He says they have fallen in love with her and that she is extremely happy to be there.

    Unfortunately his foster father, Antonio, and foster sisters, Alexia and Alysea, could not join them on this trip, but he says they will come in the future.

    I have eagerly been following Lexy’s return journey on Facebook and Instagram via the countless photos he has being posting with relatives dressed up in vibrant and beautiful traditional Gambian clothes and eating plates brimming with delicious fish curries, jollof rice and peanut stews.

    His cousin even had traditional Gambian clothes made for him and his foster mother as a welcome gift, he says.

    Giusella has easily adopted to the Gambian way of living and loves the food and the warmth of the people, he says.

    Lexy’s story, despite the traumatic experiences he’s gone through, has a happy ending unlike many young African migrants who try to get to Europe.

    In Sicily he has mastered the Italian language, even speaks the local Favara dialect - which fills his foster mother with pride - and he works at a pharmacy in the town, a job he loves and that has enabled him to financially support his family in Gambia.

    Still on holiday in The Gambia, he says he cannot stop smiling.

    Quote Message: Everyone is treating me and my mum like a prince and a queen, it’s just amazing."
  7. Jammeh's role in migrant killings 'must be probed'

    Will Ross

    Africa editor, BBC World Service

    Yahya Jammeh
    Image caption: Yahya Jammeh went into exile in 2017 after 22 years in power

    Human Rights Watch has called for a criminal investigation into the role of the former president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, in the killing of dozens of migrants in 2005.

    Recent testimony at the country’s truth commission implicated him in the summary execution of 59 people from various West African countries.

    They had been trying to get to Europe by boat when they were arrested in The Gambia by a notorious paramilitary unit which took its orders directly from Mr Jammeh.

    The former leader has been in exile in Equatorial Guinea since being removed from power in 2017.

    He refused to accept defeat in December 2016 elections and The Gambia's neighbours sent troops to force him out.

    Read more:

  8. Gambian president kicks off nationwide vaccinations

    Omar Wally

    Journalist, The Gambia

    President Adama Barrow receives his jab

    As the Gambia launches nationwide coronavirus vaccinations, President Adama Barrow has taken the lead in being the first to receive his jab.

    The Gambia, with its population of 2.1 million people, has received 36,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine under the Covax programme.

    Other people vaccinated on Thursday include Gambia's vice-president, the Imam of Banjul, its Bishop, and the World Health Organization's Gambia representative.

    A map showing vaccine rollout by African nations
  9. The Ghanaian shoe seller taking on an ex-dictator

    Video content

    Video caption: Martin Kyere is the only known survivor of a mass killing in The Gambia in 2005

    Martin Kyere is the only known survivor of a mass killing in The Gambia in 2005 where 55 migrants were murdered.

  10. Senegal to share vaccines with neighbours

    A map showing Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal

    Senegal is offering The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau 10,000 vaccines each "as a form of African solidarity" with its smaller neighbours, President Macky Sall has said.

    Senegal recently purchased its first 200,000 doses from Sinopharm and national rollout began on Tuesday.

    In The Gambia, more than 4,500 people are known to have contracted coronavirus since the outbreak began.

    In Guinea-Bissau this number is just over 3,000.

  11. Gambia's internet and phone services disrupted

    The Gambia is experiencing prolonged downtime of internet and mobile telephony resulting in general disruption of services.

    This is the second time in a week that the West Africa country has experienced hours of shutdown in communication services.

    Last week, the state-owned telecommunications company, Gamtel, apologised to consumers for the failure of the country's main cable - Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) and backup links which it said was beyond its control.

    It is uncertain how long the internet blackout will last this time.

  12. Gambia to name and shame Covid rulebreakers

    A market area in Banjul, Gambia
    Image caption: Forty people reportedly left quarantine too early

    Authorities in the Gambia say they are going to reveal the identities of 40 people who have violated Covid-19 regulations.

    Gambian journalist Omar Wally told BBC Newsday that the 40 walked out of coronavirus treatment centres and the government says they were endangering the lives of people.

    "They tested positive and were taken to treatment centres and they decided to leave, out of 155 people 40 of them decided not to abide by the Covid rules," Mr Wally said.

    The country has registered 4,019 confirmed cases and 128 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

    "Many people still don’t believe Covid exists so if government can go ahead and publish these names is one thing, but whether those people will abide by rules is another thing," he said.

    Mr Wally says political leaders have continued with campaign activities ahead of elections in December disregarding guidelines.

  13. Gambia records first cases of UK Covid variant


    The Gambia has recorded its first two cases of a coronavirus strain first detected in the UK, news agencies report.

    Health Minister Ahmadou Samateh told lawmakers the strain was detected in two people entering the country, the AFP reports.

    A second official, director of health services Mustapha Bittaye is quoted by Reuters as saying the first case was a man who had travelled from the UK, while the other was a Gambian woman.

    The ministry said it was tracking down the origins of transmission.

    The World Health Organization in its latest update listed 50 countries where the variant had been detected.

    None of the 50 countries was in the African continent.

  14. 'Unique' Covid-19 variant detected in Kenya

    A woman walks past the graffiti mural related to the COVID-19 coronavirus painted by the residential art group, art360, at the Kibera slum in Nairobi on June 2, 2020.
    Image caption: Kenya has had nearly 100,000 cases of Covid-19

    A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Kenya, preliminary research by the state-linked Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has revealed.

    The variant, unique to Kenya, had been detected in the south-east of the country following a study done between June and October, Kemri said.

    More research needed to be done to asses the impact of the variant, it added. It is perfectly normal for viruses to mutate, scientists say.

    Kenya has so far recorded nearly 100,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,700 deaths.

    Meanwhile, the faster-spreading South African variant has been detected in three African states - neighbouring Botswana, Zambia and The Gambia in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

    Africa has now topped three million Covid-19 cases, and daily case numbers were exceeding the first wave peak, it said.

    An average of 25,223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18,104 daily average cases, the WHO said.

    "Revamped public health measures are ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point," it added.

    Read more:

  15. The Gambia explains voter registration delay

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    A street in Gambia's capital Banjul
    Image caption: Gambians will elect their next president at the end of 2021

    The Gambian electoral commission has defended its decision to postpone the voter registration exercise ahead of the 4 December presidential election.

    It cited logistical challenges around "procurement of materials and equipment needed for the successful conduct of the vote registration", The Point news website reports.

    The commission has however assured citizens that the delay will not affect the electoral calendar, insisting that the December polls will still go ahead as planned.

    The decision to postpone voter registration sparked a lot of debate, especially among the political class.

    The Standard news website reported that President Adama Barrow advised the electoral body against delaying the presidential election.

    Civil society groups are demanding an emergency meeting about the postponement, the website reports.

    In December 2019 the banned "Operation Three Years Jotna" movement staged protests in the capital Banjul to pressure President Barrow to honour his 2016 promise to stand down after a three-year transitional period.