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Vice President Tambajang Says She Will Like To Become President! II

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Part I here

 

Continued…:

Arrey Ivo: “As Health Minister what things did you introduce in that sector in your
country?”

Fatoumata: “When I started I did my best to bring on board the experience I gathered from UNDP and also in partnership with the World Bank, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and other partners. What I did first was to look at what was on the ground because you can’t come and start everything afresh. I looked at what was on the ground because I knew government had a policy on the ground and programmes. I
looked at them and tried to identify the gaps, in partnership with stakeholders including communities and we realised that we needed more efforts in terms of decentralisation of
the health aspect, we needed more assistance in the area of social welfare because increasingly people are becoming more vulnerable because of the declining economies in
my country, I also encouraged government to develop a new policy that would move the
process forward and policy was formulated in concert with communities to the extent of
even reaching out in terms of speaking the local languages, translating to local communities and explaining to them because they are the main stakeholders and they need to know what is being developed. They need to direct us. We need to be listeners as
policy makers. Once the policy was developed it was acknowledged by World Health
Organisation (WHO) as a model in Africa. From that point of view, we also tried to
support the efforts of government to decentralise facilities and services particularly for
the Health personnel. Increasingly we realised people were reluctant to move to rural
areas because of limited housing, limited facilities and so we improved the sector too.
The other aspect was to look at donors and funding in terms of increasing the facilities in
the Central Hospital and also hospitals in the rural areas especially as Gambia has only 3
main hospitals, others being just health posts. We developed a strategy to develop and
strengthen the capacity of the ministry, departments and health units in the rural areas and
we did all these alongside some consultations on staff morale. So many times we realised
government civil servants are underpaid and if you want to maximise the capacity of
people we need to really give them incentives”.

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Arrey Ivo: “As a former state minister are you still keeping the synergies you had with other ministers in Africa? Are you still working in some forum on development, child care, HIV/AIDS and so on?”

Fatoumata: “Yes. The Health policy of the Gambia that was developed in 1995 when I became minister has a major component on maternal and child health. It has a component
on HIV prevention and control and we have components on tuberculosis, malaria, human
capacity building, strengthening of institutions and we also have some resources for
reaching out to other partners both internally and externally in terms of enriching our
programmes particularly drawing on the experience of the Bamako Initiative which is
mainly geared towards Millennium Development Goals, reducing infant mortality and
reducing also poverty particularly among the vulnerable groups, and helping build the
capacities of people through improving and enhancing their own initiatives on the ground
in order that they can also overcome their own poverty. As you know poverty remains the
major challenge in Africa, Gambia is not an exception. So through interaction and
international conferences we attend, we think globally and when we come home we act
locally, so that we can be attuned to the circumstances of the local reality”.

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Arrey Ivo: “So why is Development Aid not working in Africa? Why are projects
failing?”

Fatoumata: “Projects are failing because of a number of factors. One could be the environment in terms of policy environment, one in terms of the physical environment;
you also have the problem of resources and also governments’ political commitment. If
the political commitment is not to projects which is by way of having governments public
funds finance projects and then allow the dynamics of projects to embrace international
cooperation it will never be sustainable, because it will be depending on handouts rather
than depending on our selves; so the local ownership is never there. And we know we are
really working under the context of globalisation which is making more and more
African countries and the Gambia vulnerable. Resources are scarce coupled with the fact
that we find a lot of corruption in government, we find the lack of accountability and lack
of transparency in the way public affairs are ran. People are not consulted. For example
Public Expenditure Management Programme in the Gambia is just between the World
Bank and government that is of course not unique. In other African countries you find
that it is the World Bank that dictates and also Brettonhood institutions, international
donors etc. Most programmes are donor driven hence unsustainability of projects on
donor exit. We find so much invested on projects and they become white elephants. Some
times you find that projects are duplicated instead of looking at why they failed and
trying to remedy that. It is a duplication of efforts and resources. So Africa and Gambia
in particular needs to look inwardly and see why projects fail and ensure that there is
enough political commitment to make them succeed”.

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Arrey Ivo: “Don’t you think industrialisation is an option?

Fatoumata: “Yes industrialisation is an option that is why I said one thing Africa should think about its priorities and define its own priorities. For instance in local areas if we
have cotton industries, build the capacities of farmers, if we give them subsidies within a
given time frame, you increase their productivity and promote industrial development and
you will find self-reliance. That brings me to the idea of developing the infrastructure.
Infrastructure is very very poor. Communications, basic services like education, health
etc is not available in most of the rural areas. In this century you would have thought that
may be something as simple as electricity could be accessible and affordable but all these
basic services which are fundamental human rights are not. We are the electorate and we
put governments there and they must be accountable to us by providing these basic
services that we need to help people develop not only themselves but also contribute
meaningfully to development”.

Part 3 here..

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