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Analytical summary - The physical environment

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Significant progress has been registered in the areas of malaria control through indoor residual spraying and environmental sanitation.

Environmental factors such as indiscriminate building and dumping of waste into waterways have led to floods in some urban areas. Rains have destroyed homes and displaced families over the past 5 years, prompting a disaster management team to be established to mitigate the effects of these weather-related disasters.[1]

One of the main environmental issues facing the Gambia is waste management, especially in urban areas. This is exacerbated by indiscriminate disposal of wastes from households and small industries, poor collection and inappropriate disposal practices.[2] Waste management, especially in urban areas, and the safe disposal of excreta, the management of landfills, and monitoring of surface and ground water are the major challenges in terms of sanitation.

Uncontrolled urban growth and the lack of resources to deal with the inevitable rise in waste generated have exacerbated industrial pollution, adding to the problems.[3]

In the Gambia, 98% of energy used comes from wood, which puts pressure on the country`s forest cover.[4] Indoor air pollution, caused by smoke inhalation from wood fires, is noted by WHO as one of the biggest threats to women in developing countries where respiratory diseases are common.

To date, about 86% of the population has access to portable drinking water, indicating that the country has reached the Millennium Development Goal target for clean water.[1] In poor and remote communities, only 20% of the population still uses drinking water sources that are unprotected and 69% of households do not have access to improved sanitation. Nationally, only 52% of the population uses improved sanitation facilities, indicating that the Gambia is unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goal 7 target for sanitation.

Climate change effects have been felt in the Gambia, particularly in the form of flooding during the rainy season. Floods have resulted in displacement of persons and destruction of dwellings, while droughts have resulted in crop failure and water shortage. The most vulnerable sectors are water resources, forestry, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, health and coastal zone.[3]

There is an urgent need for implementation of an early-warning system on climate change and public education on climate and weather-related issues in the country.

It is illegal in the Gambia to import, manufacture, formulate, offer, hold on stock, sell, use or advertise certain banned chemicals (e.g. aldicarb, aldrin and camphechlor mercury compounds).


  1. 1.0 1.1 UNICEF in the Gambia: making life in the Gambia fit for all children, 2007–2011. United Nations Children’s Fund, 2011
  2. WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2008–2013, Gambia (pdf 426.64kb). Brazzaville, World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 Republic of the Gambia, Round Table Conference, London 5–6 February 2008: Poverty Reduction Strategy 2007–2011. Synthesis. Partnership for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (pdf 122.15kb). Banjul, Government of the Gambia, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, 2008
  4. Africa database CD-ROM. Washington DC, World Bank, 2000