Culture & Traditions Children
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.
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 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
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
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.