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Analytical summary

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The health status of the population of the Gambia has improved in recent years. Life expectancy increased from 59.3 years in 1993 to 64 years in 2006. This improvement could be due to health-related factors, including the improvement of physical access to health care, the presence of doctors in major health facilities and community-level clinics as well as to non-health factors, including improvement in transport, road networks, education and access to portable water.

There was a decline in crude death rate from 30 per 1000 population (1983 census) to an estimated 16 per 1000 population (1993 census). Infant mortality rate also declined from 167 per 1000 live births in 1983 to 75 per 1000 live births in 2003. It is important to note that 30–40% of the infant mortality in the Gambia is attributable to perinatal events. This implies that many challenges need to be addressed in the delivery of obstetric as well as neonatal care.

The Gambia`s maternal mortality rate has shown some improvement, falling from 1050 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births in 1990 to 730 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2001.[1] There was a further decline to 556 per 100 000 live births in 2007.[2] Despite this decline, maternal mortality rate is still unacceptably high.

A survey on the availability, utilization and quality of emergency obstetric care revealed that there is an unmet need (79%) for emergency obstetric care facilities in the Gambia. Some of the factors responsible are the challenges in the referral systems, especially the links between community level and health facility level, as well as the often ill-equipped and inadequately staffed health facilities.

The Gambia, like all developing countries, suffers from the double burden of disease with notable increase in noncommunicable diseases, which were previously classified as diseases of affluence. Factors such as change in dietary habits and increased sedentary lifestyle have contributed to the increase in diabetes and hypertension. The recent call by the Government of the Gambia for the population to "eat what they grow and grow what they eat" is an attempt to encourage people to change their dietary habits for healthier living.[3]

Malaria remains a leading cause of morbidity in children despite the comprehensive malaria control programme funded both by the Government and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It is hoped that with the plan to provide insecticide-treated bednets to every Gambian, the burden of malaria may decrease with time.


  1. National survey on maternal, perinatal, neonatal and infant mortality and contraceptive prevalence, 2001. Banjul, Government of the Gambia, 2001
  2. Situational analysis on obstetric fistula survey, 2007 (pdf 950.66kb). Banjul, Government of the Gambia, 2007
  3. The National Integrated Policy for Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control in the Gambia 2012–2016. Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, September 2011 (draft)