About Gambia

The Republic of The Gambia is a small West African country surrounded by Senegal on all sides except along its short coast. Referred to as the “smiling coast of Africa,” The Gambia’s long and winding shape was determined by British and French territory divisions established in the 19th century and follows the outline of the Gambia River. The majority of its more than 2.2 million person population is Muslim. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with about 57 percent of The Gambia’s population concentrated in urban and peri-urban centers. The most commonly spoken language is English, in addition to several local languages representative of a variety of Gambian ethnic groups.

Since the country’s independence from Britain in 1965, The Gambia has remained politically stable. Stability has not directly translated into prosperity, as nearly half of the population lives in poverty and almost 10 percent faces food insecurity. Two-thirds of the population earns their livelihood from the agricultural sector, but the overall output of the sector is low relative to the amount of arable land.

The poor socioeconomic situation in The Gambia is reflected in the health indicators of the escountry as well. Poverty in addition to a deteriorating infrastructure, a shortage of healthcare personnel, and an inadequate referral system contribute to a population in poor health. The top causes of death include lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, diarrheal diseases, maternal disorders, and increasingly, non-communicable diseases such as ischemic heart disease, stroke, liver cancer, and cirrhosis. Despite a precarious health situation in the country, some progress has been made: Life expectancy has continued to improve over the past few decades, as well as the under-five mortality rate, which is now nearly half of what it was in 1990.

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