The vice-president, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, who is also the chairperson of the National Disaster Relief Committee has called on relevant authorities to ensure conformity to standards as a way of minimising the intensity and devastating consequences of disasters in the country.
The vice-president made this observation while presiding over the presentation of cheques, totalling D317,392, to the various regional governors, for onward transmission to their respective regional disaster relief committees.
At the ceremony, the vice-president commended President Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh for initiating the committee. She then identified a series of issues she thought should be looked into if the country is to remedy her disaster incidents. She highlighted the issues of construction of houses, citing the incidence of people building their houses in lowland areas, exposing themselves to the dangers of flooding. She pointed to Ebo Town which literally experiences disaster every year.
The vice-president expressed concern about the scrambling for lands and called on the relevant authorities to help regulate this abnormality.
She also pointed to “poor and unlawful” wiring as another cause of fire outbreaks. Even smokers were not spared by the vice-president, describing some of their activities as the cause of bush fires.
She then urged members of the disaster committee to make it a habit to go round the country, prior to the rainy season, to sensitise communities on the dangers of such activities. This, she said, would serve as a form of preventive measure against disasters in the country.
She emphasised that everybody is obliged to ensure the realisation of the goals of the committee and then took institutions like Gamworks, municipal authorities, and even private engineers, to task. She urged them to ensure that gutters and buildings conform to standards.
She further appealed for the judicious use of resources and urged the disaster committee members to institute a system that ensures that reports are sent in on a regular basis. This, she said, would explain whether the monies being ploughed for relief assistance are being put to good use.
She thanked UNDP and all other donors for their continued support.
Ousman Sonko, the secretary of state for Interior, urged the mayors and the regional governors to put the monies to good use.
The cheques were a donation from UNDP, whose representative at the meeting, Mr Essa Kamara, praised the National Disaster Relief Committee for its achievements. Mr Kamara, however, expressed the need for improvement in the area of transportation of relief materials and resource mobilisation, which he said, are problems currently hindering progress.
The national disaster relief coordinator, Mr Kah, said that the current disaster management project started in 2006, and that since its inception, they have been working closely with regional bodies.
He said that they had also opened regional disaster accounts in all the regional bodies, as well as formed local resource mobilisation committees.
The permanent secretary at the Department of State for Local Government and Lands, Abdoulie Manneh, said the presentation could not have come at a better time, considering the fact that the rainy season is here.
He pledged his department’s continued support towards the overall effort of ensuring a smooth disaster management coordinating system.
Momodou Soma Jobe, the governor of Lower River Region, expressed profound gratitude for the gesture on behalf of the beneficiaries. Mr Jobe assured the benefactors that the monies would be put to good use.
In a separate engagement, the vice-president also received representatives of Global HOMM, led by Mr Byung In Barnabas, the director of Global Homme, a US-based medical institution which is working on providing clinical services in The Gambia. Global HOMM is currently constructing a clinic at Bijilo (Bijilo Clinic).
Mr Barnabas, a diplomat of the American Board of Paediatrics, told reporters that he and his team were at State House to make a follow up on the progress of the Bijilo Clinic Project, which he said had commenced about one-and-a-half year back.
He disclosed that the construction of the facility is at the finishing stage, adding that the paediatric section is in fact in operation, although not formally.
On the future plans of the clinic, Mr Barnabas said this featured during their discussion with the vice-president. He said they are currently operating in a low-key level, although the system is not yet fully in place.
A non-profitable organisation, which started in the state of Virginia in the United States, Global HOMM is registered under the Federal Government of the US, and in The Gambia, as an NGO.