Our fundraiser “Masks for The Gambia” was a great success. After the publication of our last newsletter on 04.04.2020 and the call for donations “A letter from Gambia” on 20.04.2020, donations of 21,778.00 euros have been received in our bank account to date. Via Facebook we received another 2,673.70 euros in donations for the campaign – a total of 24,671.70 euros.
We thank all donors wholeheartedly for their small and large donations. 20,000 euros were transferred to Project Aid The Gambia in late April. 30,000 masks have already been produced there – and production continues…
The first masks were delivered in early April: 1,000 pieces to Jahaly Health Centre and 500 pieces to the Health Center Buniadu, which we run on behalf of Riverboat Doctors International e.V.
In Jahaly and Buniadu, patients receive a mask, which they return after their visit. The cotton masks are then soaked in hot water with detergent overnight and washed out and dried the next day before being handed out again. The two health centers were the first and only health facilities in The Gambia to have masks for staff and patients.You can watch a short video on Facebook here (just click here).
Matthias Ketteler, chairman of Project Aid The Gambia, initiated and organized the mask campaign on site in The Gambia before returning to Germany with his family in early May.
The Corona situation in The Gambia itself is somewhat confusing. Officially, the government has the situation under control – but to us the authorities seem overwhelmed. It took weeks of effort for Matthias Ketteler to obtain approval from the Gambian Ministry of Health to provide masks to state run health centers free of charge. There are neither medical masks nor simple mouth-nose masks available.
On Thursday (June 4th, 2020) we finally got a list with 23 health centers and local health posts in the Central River region, CRR, around Jahaly, to which we distributed a total of 8,000 masks at the beginning of this week, 500 and 250 each. We also made our project truck available free of charge to volunteers, who across the country distributed rice, sugar and oil to families in need, due to the lockdown.
There have been officially 28 Corona cases (as of June 10th) in The Gambia, five of which are active. 22 patients have recovered, one patient has died. A high number of unreported cases must be assumed, since there are only insufficient test capacities available. So far, just under 2,000 tests have been carried out and 800 contacts followed. 130 suspected cases are in quarantine. The state of emergency in the country was again extended by 21 days on June 10th. The markets that are vital for the population, but also mosques and churches, are reopened under certain conditions. We do not know whether our kindergarten can open again before the summer holidays begin in mid-July. The biggest problem, however, is that “social distancing” doesn’t work in The Gambia. The government strongly recommends wearing masks in public. On the big markets and on the ferries, however, we observe that nobody adheres to it.
The health system is poorly equipped: only 20 transpirators and eight intensive care bed units are available for a population of 2.3 million. Boergel GmbH, a German company, has provided us with 12 used transpirators for The Gambia. Inquiries from other companies are ongoing. Unfortunately, for weeks we have also been waiting for an urgently needed official request from the Gambian government. Together with donated hospital beds from the German hospital Ruhrlandklinik, the relief supplies are to be shipped to The Gambia at the end of June. We thank you very much for all these donations.
In Jahaly we now are also selling personal masks to patients and their escorts for a small fee (20 Dalasi, approx. 35 cents). After the initial reluctance of the villagers, we have now sold over 360 masks to them. Many people, especially in rural Gambia, do not believe that the virus exists. Where should they find out about it – without access to newspapers, radio, TV or social media? We have sold several thousand masks to companies in the coastal region or other NGOs in the country, e.g. to the Children’s Village Bottrop in The Gambia. The Serekunda Hospital, the largest city in The Gambia, has received 400 masks from us for free. Our masks can also be purchased in some pharmacies. All proceeds go to the production of further masks. With each mask, buyers and users receive a DIN A5 leaflet, which explains the hygienically correct use of the masks in text and images. We had several tens of thousands of copies of this leaflet printed.
On Friday (12.06.2020) we were hostd by Star TV-The Gambia on the program “Talk to Malik Jones”. Project Aid The Gambia’s project coordinator Ebrima Jobarteh and Dr. Eliazer Rodriguez reported on our projects and our contribution in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in The Gambia. Dr. Rodriguez currently supports us as a medical advisor. Please watch the entire program here: