The Italian Ambassador in Dakar, Francesco Paolo Venier, and the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) in Dakar, Alessandra Piermattei recently visited Gambia to launch together with the Gambian authorities, two development projects in association with UNICEF. The first project, which is directly financed by AICS, is concerned with promoting the Gambian side of a regional initiative, valued at 3 million euros, with a view to supporting national nutrition programmes to help vulnerable groups - children from 0 to 5 and women of child-bearing age - reach their targets more quickly. The second project, for a value of 2 million euros, targets Gambia alone and is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Directorate General for Italian Citizens Abroad and Migration Policies -DGIT- ) through the 2018 Fund for Africa. The project is designed to help protect minors in transit against exploitation and abuse and support national mechanisms on a centralised and localised basis. It is well-known that Gambia is still the country of origin and transit for a very high number of irregular migrants from West African countries.
The ceremony marking the launching of the projects was held on 30 January in Soma in the east of the country. The First Lady of Gambia, Fatoumatta Bah Barrow attended the ceremony, along with the Ministers of Health and Territorial Governance, the two Governors of the regions involved, the Lower and Upper River regions, and many people representing civil society and community groups, especially young mothers, all directly involved in the implementation of the projects.
As Ambassador Venier said in his address, these are the first cooperation initiatives launched in Gambia since democracy was returned to the country a little less than two years ago. Italian NGOs specialized in the creation of employment and income, are also launching their first projects with special regard for returning migrants.