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World Humanitarian Day 2021

Statement by Acting National Director SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia

Today is another important day as we come together to celebrate world Humanitarian Day. The day is set aside to celebrate colleagues who risked their lives daily supporting vulnerable people such as women and children in crises and in conflict zones around the world.

World Humanitarian Day is designated to honor the memory of the 19 August 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 22 people, including the chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formalized the day as World Humanitarian Day (WHD).

Each year, WHD focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.

This year, the world highlights the immediate human cost of the climate crisis by pressuring world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people.

As an International Non-governmental Social Development Organisation, we will use our voice to advocate for the plight of vulnerable people especially children and young people in risk zones around the world so that no child will be left behind and no child will grow up alone.

This year, in the first week of July, The Gambia experienced widespread windstorm disaster that affected over 16,849 people in more than 100 communities across all seven regions of the country. The impact of the disaster caused a total of 10 deaths, around 1531 people internally displaced and with over 100 people severely injured; mainly as a result of structural collapses triggered by falling trees and moving objects.

Among the affected are children and young people whose lives are disrupted and are exposed to risk of separation from their families and communities. The internally displaced people (IDP) are further exposed to increasing harsh weather conditions.

According to the Meteorological Department, the wind speed was at 85 km per hour and was the first of its kind to be recorded in the last five years. The characteristics of the windstorm are unusual and unprecedented thus reaffirming that climate change and variability are real and therefore something needs to be done. 

As an organization tirelessly working on improving the lives of children, young people and their families, we would like to renew our commitment to strengthen our resilience to climate risk.  We are driven by our vision – every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security. We will therefore and at all times, endeavor to strengthen our resilience!

You will all agree with me that, 2020/21 are difficult years for all of our programs, especially for our children, young people and families; hence the emergence of the Covid pandemic.

The fluidity and high recurrence rate of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the vulnerabilities of communities to climate change risk and other forms of risks.  Many countries including The Gambia have been affected socially and economically to the extent that certain sectors of their economies and social systems may not easily recover.

The recurrence of another Covid wave in the midst of a flood season has resulted to disruptions of programmes at SOS; hence the partial closure of some programmes, facilities and community initiatives. Family Strengthening Programmes focusing on Women Empowerment or Community Empowerment have also suffered setbacks in the recent windstorm disasters in Upper River Region. It is quite obvious that the impact and extent of climate change risk have no boundaries and if unchecked, there will be serious reversals in our development gains.

As floods, windstorm and other climate change hazards continue to cause havoc annually in our country, it is high time that The Gambia Government is reminded of its duty to intensity its fight against climate change by; accelerating and improving access to climate change fund opportunities; accelerate climate insurance policy change and increase its investment in climate resilience building.  

Finally, I wish to reiterate our commitment to the Humanitarian Imperative and Principles and wish to assure you that SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia will continue to uphold these principles and commitments and more importantly strive to make our programmes and beneficiaries to be more climate resilient.

 I thank you all and have a great day deliberation.

Acting National Director – Ebou Faye Njie.

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