port of harlem magazine
port of harlem gambian education partnership
Somewhat Ironic, Whimsical Updates from the Port of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership

Mar 09 – Mar 22, 2023
a sack of American Rice

Since 2002, the Port of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership (POHGEP) has been connecting Americans and others with Gambians. After a three years lapse, I, as POHGEP president, was able to return to my old stomping grounds to observe what we have been during virtually and to forge new opportunities. As always there were some interesting moments.  Take a read:

The day I got this notice from the United States State Department on my cell phone via its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) program about increase home burglaries in The Gambia: “Exercise increased caution in The Gambia due to crime and inadequate health infrastructure,” two people were killed and two others were injured in a parked car in front of an apartment complex in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

On the following day, I spoke with Dr. Ceesay at the Fanjikunda Health Center. We hope to begin working with them at providing health information at the Phillis Wheatley library in Neme Kunku. Yes, the health system in The Gambia is not like that in the United States. In fact, I always buy traveler’s health insurance that will fly me out of The Gambia, if necessary, and/or repatriate my remains.

Meanwhile, in the US, Democratic Georgia lawmakers, local officials and the NAACP are asking federal officials to investigate a health care system that closed hospitals in downtown Atlanta and a southern suburb, claiming Wellstar Health System has illegally discriminated against Black people and violated its tax-exempt status. (Also see: Black Hospitals Die, How Does Gary’s Remain Alive).

Two of the students in our scholarship program dropped out of school. I went to visit the families to see if we can get them back into the program and found age-old problems. In the first case, the boy wants to concentrate on playing football against his family wishes. The second, a girl, wanted to get married. It doesn’t’ appear she was initially forced into her marriage. I am not sure what happened first, she got married or she got pregnant. Either way, she had a baby boy while I was there.

I know Americans who are ready to dismiss Democrats over inflation are a part of an effort to persuade those who just don’t look at international news to blame Biden-Harris. My friend Buba and I once had discussed the skyrocketing cost of rice, their staple, in The Gambia before I came. Then, I saw how the cost of a taxi ride from my apartment to the stop light went from D8 to D12 in three years,  a 50 percent increase! Inflation is an international issue.  

In 2020, a 50kg bag of American rice was sold in The Gambia at D1400 ($28). Today, it is D1800 ($29). That is a 29 percent increase in dalasis (D) and 4 percent in dollars ($).

The strength of the dollar help make imports more expensive. In 2019, one dollar would get you 50 dalasis, now it will get you 61 dalasis, a 22 percent increase; benefiting those with the dollar.

Many Gambians often eat rice for lunch and dinner. Inflation is not an American Biden-Harris problem only, it’s international.

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