Commonwealth veterans of the British Armed Forces including those from The Gambia will receive two meals a day through a new DFID programme, according a Press Release from the UK Department for International Development. The package, worth £11.8 million will be awarded to the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, a charity which supports veterans who served The British Crown for almost 100 years through UK Aid Direct.
A Gambian Commonwealth war veteran 99-year-old Boto Marong and 85-year-old Bakoto Jobe, whose husband was a corporal in the First Gambia Regiment who fought in Burma will benefit from the programme. The new programme will benefit 30 countries eligible for UK Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) including: Antigua, Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Cameroon, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montserrat, Pakistan, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Gambian Commonwealth war veteran 99-year-old Boto Marong, pictured at his home in The Gambia. Image: RCEL
85-year-old Bakoto Jobe, pictured at her home in The Gambia. Image: RCEL
The International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt confirmed in November that more than 7,000 war veterans will benefit from the programme which will be delivered through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League.
According to the release, the “Department for International Development (DFID) programme will provide regular cash transfers to Commonwealth veterans and their widows and widowers in more than 30 countries to prevent them from going hungry”
Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt said:
“We owe a tremendous amount to these Commonwealth Veterans. The British public would be shocked to know that those who have served alongside our Armed Forces would be living in such poverty.
It is absolutely right to make this commitment. I think the British public would approve of us pledging this support because of the sacrifices the Commonwealth Veterans have made and because of the debt of gratitude we owe to them.”
The announcement follows a commitment in June by DFID to design a programme to support pre-independence war veterans.
RCEL Deputy Grand President and former Chief of Defence Staff, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO, said at the time:
“We owe a great debt to the service men and women of the Commonwealth who served in the British Armed Forces in the Second World War and afterwards prior to their countries’ independence.
This grant will help the RCEL ensure that these brave men and women are sustained and cared for in their twilight years. As important, it will let them know that they have not been forgotten and their service and sacrifice is remembered.”
According to the announcement, the 4,500 veterans and 2,500 widows would be unable to secure the equivalent of one-meal-a-day without the support from DFID. “UK aid will mean that those who served in the British Armed Forces across the Commonwealth pre-independence will not live their later years in poverty”, the release stated.
It could be recalled that The Gambia was unilaterally taken out of the Commonwealth of nations by the former autocratic leader Yahya Jammeh, a decision which was reversed by the current Gambia President Adama Barrow. Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth on 8th February 2018. This was followed by President Adama Barrow attending a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018.