COVID-19 Elevated Poverty in The Gambia

The Gambia’s poverty rate has climbed to 53.4 percent largely due to COVID-19 according to The Gambia Poverty and Gender Assessment 2022 report. The report states that before the COVID-19 induced crisis the national poverty rate declined from 48.6 percent in 2015 to 45.8 percent in 2019.

Poverty rates remains more of a rural phenomenon – 7 out of every 10 rural dwellers are poor; compared to 3 out of every 10 urban dwellers. However, the larger share of poor people live in urban areas in the more populous Southwest, mainly in Brikama.

The report shows that in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, some households resorted to migration from urban to rural areas and splitting large households into smaller sizes as observed during the peak of the pandemic in the second and third quarters of 2020.

It is important to note that there was significant progress registered prior to the pandemic in improving key indicators of welfare such as school attendance, maternal and child health, and access to water and electricity. The report provides insights to inform the recovery agenda from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as mitigating the spillover effects from the ongoing war in Ukraine,” said Feyi Boroffice, World Bank Resident Representative.

There are signs of recovery; preliminary estimates indicate that per capita GDP growth recovered, from a decline of 2.4 percent in 2020 to growth of 1.2 percent in 2021. Projections suggest that this could have reduced poverty rates in 2021 from 54 percent to 53 percent. According to the report, the recovery can be sustained if The Gambia makes strides in improving education quality, maternal and child health, access to water and sanitation, electricity, and school attendance.

It further recommends that investments to boost agricultural productivity and resilience to weather shocks and increasing river salinization, and supporting the tourism sector by improving infrastructure, diversification and expanding products, will also help the poor.

“The report outlines the necessary reforms to leverage The Gambia’s youthful population and discusses gender differences in health and learning outcomes as well as in access to labor market opportunities to inform the design of well-targeted reforms to uplift the lives and livelihoods of the poor,” said Sering Touray, World Bank Poverty Economist.


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