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Gambian Babies
 
Culture & Traditions   Children   Naming Ceremonies         
 
Introduction:
They are everywhere in The Gambia, most often caught napping as they travel around town tied to their motherís back. A birth in The Gambia is cause for celebration and congratulations; about seven days after a baby comes into the world, his/her parents will host a lavish naming ceremony, a big party to celebrate the assignment of a babyís nomenclature.



Since babies of both sexes look similar, you might finds it hard to know if you are looking at a male or female, since boys are just as likely to wear pink as the ladies are. One trick is to check the childís earlobesógirlsí ears are usually pierced when they are very young; if earrings have not been inserted, you will most likely notice string threaded through the lobes. If no holes are present, you can probably assume itís a boy.

Facts & Figures:
Traditional beliefs and practices influence the way a mother feeds her infant in the Gambia. Exclusive breastfeeding for any duration is one component of optimal breast-feeding that Gambian mothers find difficult to practice. Thus, community participation is one of the strategies intended to promote exclusive infant breastfeeding. In this regard, a pilot project, entitled The Baby-friendly Community Initiative (BFCI), was organized in the 12 rural communities of the Gambia.

The project was based on the global UN International Children's Emergency Fund / WHO Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative. Differences are noted to have occurred between community initiative and hospital initiative in two major areas. These include the changing of the hospital initiatives' '10 steps to successful breastfeeding' into '10 steps to successful infant feeding'. Secondly, the traditional mother-to-mother support groups were adapted to 'village support groups on infant feeding'.

In its sixth year of implementation, the BFCI contributed to the increase in national average of exclusive breast-feeding from 17.4% in 1998 to 35% in 2000. Lastly, the communities' perceived benefits of the project went beyond its impact on breastfeeding practices to include cleaner environment, fewer mosquitoes, healthier infants and pregnant women.
Africa Health, 2001


One of the most important recent developments in child health is a tracking system that records a baby's health on a blue infant-welfare card. UNICEF has just spent $10,000 on new cards to make sure there are enough for all children.

There also has been a strong push to educate women about HIV and how they can protect themselves and their children. Testing is offered, as well as counselling and medication if needed.
 
 









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