Just as most world leaders have struggled to develop adequate COVID-19 responses, The Gambia has been no exception. In Ramatoulie Jallow’s article, “Challenges of The Gambia’s COVID-19 response and policy recommendations,” she highlights the efforts made by the Gambian government during the initial wave of the pandemic and how they fell short in addressing the actual realities and needs of their citizens. Many of the policies implemented were generic reactive responses. They did not evaluate the inevitable intersectional effects of the virus on healthcare, food security and nutrition, income, and urban spaces. The experts with experience in evaluating urban and rural areas from broad perspectives were not brought into these conversations and included in the blueprint of safeguarding and meeting the needs of The Gambia’s people.
The Gambia was not the only government where leaders lacked the oversight and wherewithal to be proactive in their responses to COVID-19. Developed and developing countries alike have shown that they just want to react and fix a public health crisis in the quickest way rather than the most effective way. We are witnessing a perpetual pattern of ineffective policies and responses in the areas of:
- Food security
- Urban infrastructure (WASH)
- Access to general health services for marginalized communities
- Access to sexual and reproductive health services (including education for children—especially for girls who are more at risk of having to drop out of school permanently)
- Job security (especially in the informal sector)
The necessary approaches will require leaders to take a cross-sectional approach to address the most pressing needs that societies today face. Furthermore, for the complexities and intersections to come together, male leaders must make space at the table for their fellow female leaders and strategists to have a voice.
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Jallow, Ramatoulie. "Challenges of The Gambia’s COVID-19 response and policy recommendations.” Cities & Health (2020): 1-5.