COVID-19 and life in The Gambia
The global pandemic affected every country in the world and The Gambia is no exception. Although as of the 16th of April 2020, there have been only a handful of confirmed cases and 1 death attributed to the virus, the lockdown and social distancing measures have been officially adopted and implemented by the government. Public gatherings of large crowds, sporting events, concerts, religious sermons have all been banned, mosques and churches are closed. Initially only essential shops were allowed to open which has been revised to all shops and most businesses can open until 8pm (from the initial 2pm).
The markets where local people conduct their daily business are permitted to trade between 7am and 5pm. Although it hasn’t become a full blown economic crisis yet, the measures have brought an incredible hardship to the people who live hand to mouth in The Gambia. The government is actively trying to establish price ceilings to avoid massive price hikes favouring greedy traders and service providers. Many shop owners and traders raising prices have been taken to court and got hit by fines or face of possible imprisonment. Some councils, NGOs including us, Eve Gene Foundation (please donate here: https://chosano.com/collections/donate) and wealthy businesses/individuals started to hand out basic food items to feed the most vulnerable segments of society. People are wary, the all familiar handshakes and close contact are not practiced, social gatherings, parties and events are non-existent, creating an eerie silence during weekends.
One of the worst effects of the global crisis is the loss of income due to Gambians’ reliance and dependency on remittances from the diaspora and the total wipeout of the tourism industry. A large number of Gambians abroad have lost their jobs or can’t work due to restrictions abroad and find it hard to make ends meet for themselves let alone support their extended families back home. The country’s largest foreign exchange earner, the tourism industry which also employs tens of thousands of Gambians either directly or indirectly, has been annihilated. With no clear end in sight coupled with the uncertainty of the possible return of the virus, the future of Gambia’s fragile economy and the fate of its people are still in balance but the pain and suffering caused by global restrictions will undoubtedly have the most profound effect ever witnessed since the country’s 55 years of independence.