As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs much of the world, health authorities in The Gambia are working to prevent its transmission across the country’s borders.
Basse, the capital of the Upper River Region, was the site of the Gambia’s third confirmed case of COVID-19. The town’s bustling market serves as a commercial centre for the region, as well as for border communities in nearby Senegal and Guinea. Health experts are distributing hygiene supplies to marginalized women and girls in the area to aid infection control.
Some 300 dignity kits were recently distributed to women and girls identified by UNFPA’s partner, the Gambia Red Cross Society.
Each kit contained a large plastic bucket, a soft baby blanket, bathing soap, laundry soap, a towel, a wrapper, a pair of slippers, drinking cup, a sponge, deodorant, underwear and a pack of sanitary pads.
Reaching those most left behind
In Basse, only about 56 per cent of households are using improved sanitation. The dignity kits were distributed to some of those most left behind, including women and girls living in poverty and with disabilities.
“As a person living with disability, I always encounter challenges in trying to access dignity products for my personal hygiene,” said Fatoumata Fatty, upon receiving one of the dignity kits. “I am not able to afford some of the material provided to me in this kit.”
Mariama, an adolescent girl in Basse Kabakama, also received a kit. She noted that personal hygiene products are particularly challenging to access due to pandemic-related movement restrictions, and because access to supportive programmes, such as through schools and charity-based initiatives, has been limited.
The community is also the site of intensified communications efforts about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. UNFPA is supporting the dissemination of these messages – which aim to dispel misinformation and provide factual information about the illness – over local community radio in Basse and the surrounding towns and villages.
So far, 25 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. UNFPA is also working with the health system to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services and the continuation of programmes preventing and responding to gender-based violence.