By Yunus S Saliu
The UNICEF and USAID, on Thursday, 27th October 2022 jointly handed over 22 hand washing stations with functional running water of USD2 million worth at 22 health facilities in high-risk communities across The Gambia to the Ministry of Health.
The handing-over ceremony was held at the Regional Health Directorate in Farafenni. The ceremony was witnessed by officials of the Ministry of Health, USAID, UNICEF, school children, and beneficiaries from the surrounding communities and was characterized by different activities from the students and Kanyeleng group.
These facilities were constructed with funding from the United States of America through the USAID, “at a tune of USD2 million, to with vaccines, communication and community engagement and the provision of essential health and water, sanitation, hygiene services, and access to safe water.”
Addressing the beneficiaries, Gordon Jonathan Lewis, UNICEF Representative in The Gambia encouraged women of The Gambia to mobilize the community to get their children vaccinated against measles and Rubella.
He described Rubella as a dangerous disease that can cause death in children and “it is a very important effort undertaken now at the Ministry of Health to make sure that all children under the age of 5 years are also vaccinated against measles.
“So, the same leadership women of The Gambia you demonstrated from getting people vaccinated against Covid-19 we want to see the same energy and demonstration to get your children vaccinated against measles.”
He thanked the United States of America and USAID for funding the handed over of 22 permanent hand washing stations, while disclosing that “there are 5 of the hand washing stations in the Upper River Region, 5 in Central River Region, 5 in Lower River Region, 2 in North Bank Region, 3 in North Bank East Region and 2 in the West Coast 2 Region all are functional and each hand washing station has six water taps.”
Among other things, the UNICEF Representative said, the procurement of 600 buckets with mops, 350 garbage bins, and 2170 buckets with taps through USAID funding “also provides a backup solar-powered water system with a tank capacity of 10,000 litres to six health facilities across the country.”
Mr Lewis again expressed UNICEF’s deep appreciation and satisfaction to the government of the United States of America for the support which guaranty safe water for the people of the Gambia and the same time contributes to the elimination of the spread of Covid-19.
He added that hand washing is fundamental to limiting the spread of Covid-19 “and let me remind you the Covid-19 is still in the country, the pandemic is not over even though many of us have already vaccinated, and the support of the USAID will also help to support Covid-19.”
However, he added, on September 6th, 2022, UNICEF handed over more than USD500,000 in supplies to help the Ministry of Health of The Gambia respond to Covid-19 and other health emergencies.
The US Ambassador to The Gambia, Sharon L Cromer noted that the handed over of permanent hand washing stations with functional running water for 22 communities across the country will reach 264,000 people, 10% of the population, in the catchment areas.
She said hand washing with soap under running water is critical to limit the spread of the virus and other infections.
Ambassador Cromer said the installation of these hand washing stations will help communities adhere to preventive measures to reduce public health risks and strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) for health workers at healthcare facilities and communities.
The availability of water supply in health facilities, she said, makes childbirth hygienic and safe, as the absence of water exposes mothers, children, and even health workers to infection. So, “the provision of these facilities is backed up with intense hand washing campaigns incorporating infection prevention and control (IPC) messaging to promote Covid-19 protective hygiene practices using both traditional and non-traditional media outlets.”
She added that the assistance was part of the USD2 million projects funded by the United States of America to help The Gambia with vaccines, communication and community engagement, and the provision of essential health and water, sanitation, hygiene services, and access to safe water.
Speaking on behalf of Dr Momodou Lamin Samateh Honourable Minster of Health was Lamin Fadera, Program Manager Wash at the Ministry of Health. He thanked USAID through UNICEF for their relentless partnership and supports to the government of the Gambia particularly the Ministry of Health.
He said the government of the Gambia recognized the importance of safe water as it improved sanitation and hygiene which are essential in achieving improvements to people’s health and development.
With the importance attaches to sanitation and hygiene, he said the government has committed itself to reaching very ambitious targets in sanitation, among them to increase the proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities from 64.9% to 75% as well as increase the proportions of households with a place for hand washing with soap and water from 30.3% to 60% (urban) and 26% to 50% (rural) and open defecation from 99% to 100%.
Abdoulie Jarju, Regional Health Director for NBR East, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health also made some remarks and Fatoumatta Jallow among beneficiaries applauded the partnership.