Gambia part of ICRC W/Africa’s top priorities

By Kemo Cham
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross for West Africa, Christophe Martin, has highlighted the need to boost Gambia’s humanitarian condition as part of a comprehensive regional initiative that will focus on neighboring Senegal.
“We are talking about supporting more effectively the National Society of the Gambian Red Cross, as well to develop programs of training to the police forces and army forces in humanitarian principle,” the Voice of America (VOA) quoted Christophe Martin as saying.
According to the VOA report, Martin said that the ICRC is hoping to get back to performing its traditional humanitarian activities within Gambian prisons, work, he said, is often confidential between the government and the ICRC.
Gambia’s prisons are often described as some of the continent’s most unsafe places.
But the main focus of ICRC West Africa, according to the regional boss, will be Senegal, where they will be focusing on trying to help displaced persons in the restive southern Casamance region. Martin noted that displaced populations continue to be one of the major humanitarian concerns in West Africa.
“2010 will continue focusing on Casamance, the entire region of southern Senegal, because it is a situation which has been difficult over the last years, which has been more difficult over 2009 in terms of security environment,’’ Martin said. ‘‘Security has decreased, and that puts additional pressure on the population.”
Frequent MFDC rebel attacks on villages in the Casamance region since last year have forced many to flee their settlements. And this, Martin said, has caused problems such as difficulty in access to water and other needs.
The ICRC West Africa head also made reference to the threat of instability in neighboring Guinea-Bissau.
“You have a political environment which is still kind of fragile, and which could prove to put a lot of pressure on the population,” he said.

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