By Momodou Jarju
Dr. Ismaila Ceesay of the Citizens’ Alliance said on Thursday their party believes that the measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of Coronavirus has the potential to cause adverse financial and economic impact on Gambia’s poverty stricken population.
“We believe that every country must assess their own situation to help them come up with measures that suit their local realities and serve their unique contexts. Nonetheless, conspicuously missing in the government’s strategy also, however, is a socio-economic blueprint or respond plan that will address the financial and economic ramifications of the disease and unexpected burden these places on our people and their livelihoods,” he said.
Citizens’ Alliance (CA) on Thursday at the Paradise Suites hotel in Kololi launched a relief package worth D200, 000 to support 28 communities in a bit to join the fight against Covid-19.
The party made the announcement in what was its third press conference since its formation in late 2019.
According to Ceesay, they are cognizant of the fact 75% of Gambians are engaged in hand to mouth activities, while they have to go out in the morning to fetch and come and feed their families.
“Now, if you come up with measures that force them to stay at home, you must provide an alternative for them, so they can be able to feed their families. If you force them from the streets, to protect them from the virus, you must provide for them to protect them from the ravages of hunger in the homes,” he said.
He commended the government for making available 500 million Dallasis to fight COVID-19. He said the virus is a common enemy posing a common threat to humanity.
And to help contain the virus, Dr. Ceesay said, the Gambia Government introduced measures as part of its overall COVID-19 containment strategy to address the health challenges of the pandemic, reduce infection rates and also to help flatten the curve, which is commendable.
However, Ceesay said, CA believed that the measures taken by Government were not informed by a comprehensive assessment of the population’s local realities.
Ceesay said CA has been taking the lead in the prevention of COVID-19 by distributing sanitary items to local communities and raising awareness.
He went on to say that their new initiative is aimed at helping poor families so that they can be able to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
“It constitutes two components over two phases. The first phase will focus on helping poor families so they can be able to cope with the economic effects of the pandemic through cash support. To this end, CA will disburse as seed money over 200,000 Dallasis to support needy families in 28 communities, women in particular,” he said.
The university lecturer said the second phase will focus on recovery. He said when the whole COVID-19 is over, many people, especially small businesses, will struggle to recover and get back to life. It’s called Post Pandemic Recovery, Ceesay said.
“The woman who sells food at a primary school is forced to stop selling food because schools are closed. Perhaps she has eaten all her capital. When she wants to come back and sell food at the same primary school to feed our children. She would need cash to start her business,” he said.
Ceesay, who is the coordinator of CRF, said CA is giving cash instead of commodities because it is an affirmation of their strong belief in nurturing a dignified citizenry while allowing them to take control of their lives to make their own choices.
He said they will ensure that, in their exercise to distribute these resources, they respect the dignity and privacy of the recipients.
Dominic Mendy, CA interim chairman, said the country is at war with Coronavirus- calling it a third world war. He said the enemy is not human, but real and elusive.
“The Gambia like all third world countries is ill-prepared for this war which it must fight since every nation must contribute soldiers to this battle.”
Mr. Mendy said Gambians must rise up and unite with the rest of the world to defeat the elusive enemy and that the country must close ranks with sister nations across the continent and across the world to combat the deadly virus.
The party leader applauded the government and the national assembly for the steps they have taken so far to contain the virus.