Friday, August 19, 2011

Health Minister Admits Gambia Lack Enough Midwives

Health Minister, Fatim Badjie (Pix: Daily Observer)
Checkout for more…
·         2011 Midwifery Report Calls for Concerted Efforts
·         ECOWAS congratulates West African Youth
·         Free media, a critical pillar of governance – Ayo Oke
·         Media freedom is an essential ingredient of democracy
·         $15,000 for Cassamance refugees’ agricultural pursuit in Gambia

Health Minister Admits Gambia Lack Enough Midwives

2011 Midwifery Report Calls for Concerted Efforts
The “State of World’s Midwifery 2011 Report”, titled Delivering Health, Saving Lives”, has been launched in the Gambian capital Banjul, nearly two months after it was launched by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Durban, South Africa.
The report launched on Wednesday, 17th August 2011, calls for more concerted effort among midwifery and partners in the health delivery system. Organised by the Ministry in partnership with UNFPA country office in the Gambia, and attend by UNFPA Regional Director for Africa Mr. Bunmi Makinwa who is in the country to assess the level of performance of the UNFPA funded projects.
In her launching statement, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Mrs. Fatim Badjie quoted recent data to have projected 329,000 women dying while pregnant or giving birth and three million newborn babies’ around the world losing their lives, when 98 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.
“Every year over 2 million women survived childbirth but with life-long debilitating condition that ruins their life and health. Deaths and ill-health happen largely because women have no access to functioning health facilities or the services of a qualified health professional such as a midwife,” she said. “Midwives play a critical role in the delivery of health services particularly those relating to maternal and neonatal health.”
According to the Report, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) particularly the health related MDGs, that is, MDG 4 - “Reduce child mortality” and MDG 5 - “Improve Maternal Health” cannot be attain without the services of the required number of midwives distributed equitably around the world.
However, it notes that achieving the MDGs therefore requires strong commitment at global, national and local levels with the full participation of individuals, families and communities.
The report pointed out that equally and importantly, the availability of adequate numbers of well-educated and motivated midwifery workforce is a requisite to a well-functioning health care delivery system.
The report collected from 58 countries around the world, including The Gambia; said these countries collectively recorded 81 million births in 2009 equivalent to 58 percent of the world’s births. Furthermore, it said these countries combined disproportionately account for 91 percent of the global burden of maternal deaths, 80 percent of stillbirths and 82 percent of newborn deaths.
It also highlighted among other things, the triple gap: Competencies, Coverage and Access, and urging governments to recognize midwifery as a distinct profession, core to the provision of maternal and newborn health services, and promote it as a career with posts at the national policy level.
To attain the MDGs, the report suggests massive investment in midwifery training, this, Mrs Fatim Badjie said the ministry of health has identified as a priority area and call on all partners to support in their cause.
She said her ministry is aware and concern with the shortage of midwives in the country and most particularly in the rural communities, and has therefore collaborated with development partners in implementing a multi-pronged approach in addressing the situation.
“These efforts currently being implemented by the ministry will not only increase the numbers of midwives in the country, but will also enhance their retention both in the profession and within the country,” she said. “As we launch the “State of the World’s Midwifery Report 2011” let me assure that my ministry will do all it could to increase the number of midwives, ensure equitable distribution and put in place mechanisms for their retention.” 

Participants at the forum
Free media, a critical pillar of governance – Ayo Oke
A free, independent and professional media is a critical pillar of any governance system based on democratic accountability, according to Ambassador Ayo Oke, Head of Africa Section, Political Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.     
This, he said is at the center of the struggle to attain good governance and transparency in public institutions.
“Vibrant media is indispensable for promoting good governance considering that journalists play a critical role in decision making process by drawing attention to policy debates, disseminating valuable information and holding governments accountable,”
Ambassador Oke said during a three-day forum for journalists and communicators on “media and economic development” held recently at Sheraton Hotel, Resort and Spa, Brufut, The Gambia.
The forum, organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Government of The Gambia was aimed at enabling participants to evaluate the role, obligation and responsibilities of the media, government and other stakeholders in spurring and deepening economic development. It also aimed at promoting public participation in economic and political governance at national and regional levels through strengthening dialogue between the media and the government. 
He said it has been argued that the media has three key roles in contributing to democratization and good governance, that is, its watchdog role over the powerful, promoting accountability, transparency and public scrutiny; serving as a civic forum for political debate, facilitating informed electoral choices and actions; and an agenda-setter for policy makers, strengthening government responsiveness to social problem and to exclusion.   
Mr Oke noted that the primary role of government is to ensure the economic and social well-being of its citizens. This implies that governments are prime movers of development and institution-creation in social, economic and political spheres and often anticipate some degree of collaboration and partnership with the media who are, for this purpose, regarded as constituents of the ‘Fourth Estate of the realm’.
He added that governments and media are both involved in developing national strategies to promote good governance and that they are compelled to operate in the same political and economic space.
“This is where the polemic of seeking opportunities to promote government by the media and tackling consequent challenges crops up.  The Commonwealth views governance as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels,” he said. “Good governance enables the development of public values by promoting the principles of accountability, transparency, capacity and participation. The problem of space becomes accentuated because government systems differ in the explicitness of their management of information. This challenge is more profound in one-party or quasi-one party states and is manifested in varying degrees in democratic system.”
In general terms, he said democratic system habitually laid claim to a considerable degree of openness and transparency in their information management approaches. However, in many countries in Africa there appears to be a yawning gap between what is publicly known and knowable, and what is unofficially and un-attributably understood. 
As a result, the argument about openness of government process will continue to be at the forefront of democratic debates and will define the kind of political space open to the media to, not only play its role of holding governments to account, but also remain relevant in the context of guaranteeing good governance at all levels of public administration.
The commonwealth Heads of Government recognised this imperative in the 2003 Aso Rock Commonwealth Declaration on Development and Democracy, where they reaffirmed their commitment to making democracy work better for pro-poor development and also reaffirmed citizens’ right to information.
And Mr Oke believes that this is clearly an area of opportunity for the media and it provides the context for us to examine the current state of freedom of information (FOI) legislation in Africa. Freedom of information legislation comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. 
He further noted the single most important obstacle to a healthy media-government relationship in Africa and elsewhere is the failure to recognise the crucial role played by the media in the creation of conditions that promote transparency and good governance.
“This lack of recognition is reflected in the presence of active censorship or restrictive regulation of media, lack of rights of access to official information, a legal framework which inhibits the ability of journalists to inquire freely and the state control of administration of essential media service, including broadcasting, printing facilities and distribution systems,” Ambassador Oke notes.
“Difficult relationship between media and the exercise of political power is itself a hallmark of democratic society and the tendency to manipulate information or to attempt to shape the agenda of public debate exists in all societies. However, in countries where the democratic culture is not well established and where respects for democratic pluralism and human rights is not firmly entrenched, restrictions on media tent to explicit and are acutely damaging to the project of public engagement in good governance.”
While noting journalists must be professional and be able to interpret international forces, placing their own home turf into the context of the wider world especially with regards to issues of good governance, transparency and development. Mr Oke underscored that evidence points to the need for governments to make the necessary adjustment in the management information systems in ways that would empower the media and guarantee greater openness towards journalists.

Media freedom is an essential ingredient of democracy
Media freedom is an essential ingredient of democracy; it is recognised by major international treaties and national constitutions, according to Fatou Jagne Senghore, the Regional Representative ARTICLE 19 Dakar Office.
She admitted that profound and real changes have taken place in many African countries over the past two decades; however, there remain many unfinished businesses and unfulfilled promises, including stalled legal reforms, limited media pluralism and a lack of political-will to move from the rhetoric of free media to its reality.
Speaking on “West Africa regulatory framework: drawing lessons” during a three-day regional forum for journalists on media and economic development at a local hotel in Brufut, The Gambia. She stressed that Gambia have many laws with “vague and undue” restrictions that criminalize a wide range of expression, and thereby undermine constitutional guarantees and its international commitments.
The forum, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Gambia Government on the theme “Media and Economic Development”, was aimed at enabling participants to evaluate the role, obligation and responsibilities of the media, government and other stakeholders in spurring and deepening economic development.
“It was also aimed at promoting public participation in economic and political governance at national and regional levels through strengthening dialogue between the media and the government,” the organisers claimed. 
Last week, Fatou Jagne Senghore described the media as an “attractive target” for control due to its potential and power to influence public opinion, noting the temptation is large for governments to seek to transform the media’s role from that of a watchdog to a lapdog, by making the work of independent journalists and publications illegal or impossible.
“During the past 20 years some countries have managed to create frameworks to enable the media sector to grow relatively well while other countries are still lacking behind,” she said. “Article 19(3) of the UNHR and ICCPR sets the standards on freedom of expression and clearly define how restrictions should be craved and must meet a strict three-part test.”
First, she said the restriction must be provided by the law; second, it must pursue one of the legitimate aims listed in Article 19(3) and third, it must be necessary to secure that aim.
She argues that African States are quick to ratify international treaties but paradoxically not determined to engage frankly in their implementation. The existence of attempts to regulate the sector of media and freedom of expression have failed due to emphasis on repression, regulation in many countries have been developed without consultations with the stakeholders.
She said: “Lack of effective and independent regulatory mechanism and judiciary to provide remedies, limited human and financial resources in the media sector and lack of accountability mechanism (self regulation, media ownership), has left media freedom in Africa at cross-roads.”
“And there can be no real democracy without freedom of the media,” she concludes.  

$15,000 for Cassamance refugees’ agricultural pursuit in Gambia
The United States of America and Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA) on Monday 8 August entered a Grant Agreement of 15000 US dollar, meant to enhance the livelihood skills of 100 refugee families from the restive Casamace region of Southern Senegal via agricultural training and technology.
The objective of the project is to empower women and other vulnerable refugee members with labour saving production inputs to generate food for both sustenance and income.
Through this project, they will be provided with fencing materials and equipments (watering cans, rakes, seeds) for ten community gardens. They’ll also be trained on alternative income skills like tie-dye, and fishing and as well trained on marketing skills to enable them sell their goods at local and regional markets.
The money is approximately D435, 000 which will be determined by the exchange rate at the time the bills are submitted for payment. However, the two parties, the US Embassy in Banjul and GAFNA agreed that the fund shall be used only for expenses given in the project.
“These funds may not be used to pay for alcoholic beverages or entertainment, payment will be done upon submission of valid invoices received from the vendor and submitted by GAFNA. Vouchers processing will normally take about two to three weeks and so to submit,” the US Embassy said.
Mr Sekou Saho, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, Field Office Head, Banjul, noted that the UN Agency have been working in partnership with GAFNA for 14 years.
He lamented the sudden lack of partners in the cause of protecting and promoting the welfare of refugees in the Gambia. “Our institution used to attract up to nine million dalasi from partners every year, but now, we have only have three partners,” he said, while noting that this is the “second time the US Embassy donates to us.”
The Executive Director GAFNA, Albert Cox recognised the importance of the funding to the refugees, adding: “It will be of help to refugees, especially those living in rural areas”.
For 21 years, he said GAFNA has been collaborating with the Gambia Red Cross and other partners to run and maintain refugee camps in Bambali and Basse.
Rural refugee camps were established in 2004, however, Mr Cox that they are more challenging than urban camps.
·         Source: The Voice Newspaper

ECOWAS President
ECOWAS congratulates West African Youth on World Youth Day
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency James Victor Gbeho, has congratulated the youth of West Africa for their contribution to the development of the region.
President Gbeho sent the congratulatory message in a statement issued on Friday, 12th August 2011 to mark the World Youth Day.
Its reads: On the occasion of the World Youth Day, it is my pleasure, on behalf of all the ECOWAS Institutions, to address this congratulatory message to the youth of our Community, and to also express the solidarity of ECOWAS in your various endeavours.
ECOWAS wishes, again, to recognise the laudable contribution of the youth over the years to the promotion and consolidation of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law in West Africa.
ECOWAS also greatly appreciates your significant role, as the most vibrant segment of the Community, in the efforts to improve the social and economic outlook of the region.
I wish to affirm, on this important occasion, the premium that the ECOWAS leadership places on the youth in West Africa, because they are priceless in the effort to develop and integrate Member States. In this regard, it must all remember that whereas the youth constitute only about 20 percent of the world’s total population, yet, those in West Africa make up more than 60 percent of the region’s population and are, therefore, critical to our future as a region.
ECOWAS therefore calls respectfully on Member States to factor the concerns of their youth into their respective national plans, especially in the provision of employment opportunities and of guidance and support in achieving self-employment. It is also hoped that national leaders will give the youth increased voice in the determination of our common future.
As we intensify our efforts aimed at realising the Vision to transform the Region into an ECOWAS of Peoples, ECOWAS counts on the youth to serve as the motor for the Region’s transformation. To this end, ECOWAS urges the youth to strive for continuous self-improvement in the educational, economic, social and cultural spheres, while eschewing the temptation to engage in illegal activities, including extremism, banditry, drug trafficking and use, and other forms of international organised crime.
Finally, ECOWAS calls on all Member States to prioritise initiatives aimed at ensuring access to education and empowerment for the youth, particularly girls and the marginalised rural and urban youth.

·         Source: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Nuha Y. Jammeh
Mr Nuha Y. Jammeh is new NYSS Executive Director
Mr Nuha Y. Jammeh, a seasoned educationist and former principal of Ndow’s Comprehensive Junior and Senior Secondary School has been appointed executive director of the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS) with effect from July 2011.
Mr Jammeh holds a Master of Arts Degree from Indiana University, Bloomington, United States of America. He also got a B.A degree in the subject areas of Geography, Sociology and Modern History from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
He obtained the Primary Teachers’ Certificate from the then Yundum Teacher Training College.  Jammeh obtained a Specialist (HTC) Teachers Certificate in Geography from the Advanced Training College, Winneba, Cape Coast, Ghana.
He taught for several years in many schools within different regions of the Gambia.
In addition, he worked at the Regional Education Office, Curriculum Development Centre as Principal Curriculum Development Officer responsible for Social and Environmental Studies before taking a voluntary retirement in 1992 and became the Head Master of Kotu Senior Secondary School up to 1994.
Jammeh lectured at the Gambia College upon leaving Kotu up to 1998 before finally proceeding to Ndow’s Comprehensive where he was till 2006.
Moreover, he served as a consultant on gender studies for UNICEF and also participated in the development and production of the Gambia National Environmental Action Plan.
He is a member of the National Council for Social Studies in the United States of America and also a member of African Social Studies Programme (ASSP).
He wrote several research books on Geographical, Sociological, Historical, and Religious topics. Source: NYSS


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