By Ndey Sowe
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-the Gambia and partners has sensitized communities in the Upper and Central River Regions (URR/CRR respectively) on sexual and reproductive health issues such as family planning, cervical cancer, gender-based violence and other harmful traditional practices amongst others.
The sensitisation which is part of an ongoing twelve day campaign dubbed: “I Am For Zero”, is a platform to promote UNFPA’s three transformative results namely zero unmet for family planning; zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender based violence and harmful practices.
The Gambia recently launched the findings of the 2019-2020 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) which showed that the country has made significant progress in many health and development indicators.
Baboucarr Cham, Senior Lecturer at the Gambia College’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, said out of 241 women screened for cervical cancer, 90 were found to be positive.
“There was moderate agreement between visual inspection with Acetic acid (VIA) and Pap smear tests. 72.5% (66 cases) tested positive for Pap smear and VIA,” Cham said during a presentation on the prevalence of cervical cancer in women in URR; that 12.7% (19 cases) were positive for VIA and negative for VIA test. He however said 27.5% (25 cases) were positive for Pap smear and negative for VIA test.
“Women of 24 years and below are 80.2% less likely to have a positive Pap smear test result when compared to women of 47 years and above,” he remarked.
Cham said there are gaps regarding policies, protocols and guidelines on cervical cancer screening and treatment in The Gambia.
In an interview during a community-outreach program in Demba Kunda Kuta in URR, Haddy Jonga, Program Analyst and Communication officer at UNFPA, said gender-based violence takes many forms including physical, sexual, emotional and economic.
“Wife battering, rape, child marriage and FGM are some very common forms of gender-based violence in Gambian communities,” she said; that all forms of gender-based violence have negative implications on the development of society and the advancement of a country and that women and girls. are the ones most affected.
Lamin Camara, Program Analyst on Adolescent and Youth at UNFPA, said the youthful nature of the country’s population coupled with the low CPR albeit much improved and high unmet needs for family planning contraceptive and commodities, means that the Gambian population will continue to be dependent, making the country increasingly unlikely to ever harness her demographic dividend; that on the contrary, scaling up family planning programs can greatly support the country to harness her demographic dividend and ultimately reduce poverty.
Meanwhile, the aforesaid campaign is being conducted in collaboration with the SOS Mother and Child Clinic, Regional Health Teams in NBR, CRR and URR, the Gambia Family Planning Association, Network Against Gender-Based Violence, Paradise Foundation and the Ministry of Health