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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Coming Up : Inside Out - East: Monday February 6, 2006

Gambian hospital

Gambia Hospital ward
Helping health care in Gambia

Gambia has become a popular holiday destination that can provide all the trappings Western tourists want.

Thirteen years ago Anita, a Northamptonshire woman, went there on a luxury holiday.

She and her husband took a trip into the Bush and her life changed forever.

Her visit took her to the remote town of Bansang - where she saw the hospital.

Anita was so appalled at conditions at the hospital that her mission to improve things has taken over her life:

"Entering those wards was the turning point of my life…

"The children have been the driving force. In the early days I hadn't the courage to go to parts of the ward.

"Then I realised that no-one else was going to speak up for them. Nobody else was going to do it."

Dying children

HEALTH PROVISION


The Gambia is situated on the West African coast. One and a half million people live there. They rely on three government run hospitals for health care.

Life expectancy is 54 years (men) and 57 years (women).

Bansang Hospital is situated in the African bush, 200 miles from the coast. It is a small 160 bed facility built by the British in 1938.

The hospital provides for the health needs of 600,000 Gambians. Extra pressure comes with the arrival of patients from Senegal, Mali, Guinea and refugees from Sierra Leone.

Successive Governments have tried to offer the health service as much resources as possible. But the economy just does not generate enough money to satisfy demands.

Source: Bansang Hospital Appeal and UN.

One in four children in the Gambia die before their fifth birthday.

It was with this statistic in her mind that Anita began a campaign to open a new children's ward.

Once open, it will be the only one of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It's been entirely funded by public donation.

The new 80 bed ward is due to open in March 2006.

But that won't be the end.

Anita is already working on the next phases - including a programme to keep trained nurses in the Gambia.

Tempted by higher wages and better living conditions, 60 per cent of Gambians leave to work in the UK.

This is stripping the country of desperately needed expertise.

Anita will be working with the Gambians to address this problem.

Journey of hope

Inside Out accompanied Anita this November as she made one of the final trips before the opening of the new ward.

This is a story of how a local community here, with Anita's leadership, is enabling a community in the developing world.

There have been 13 years of challenges to come this far.

Now as well as ensuring the hospital opens, Anita needs to ensure it will sustain in the long term.

We meet Oope Badjie - a Gambian Play nurse.

She's sponsored by the charity to help kids recover. She'll run the new playroom when it opens.

She and others are sponsored so they stay and work in the Gambia rather than leave for the UK for higher wages.

Generous support

The people of Northamptonshire have supported the charity whole heartedly, both by giving money and equipment as well as direct help.

Kettering General Hospital is even twinned with Bansang!

Dr Annabel Kerr is just one person who's helped.

She was working at Kettering General Hospital, and is herself fighting cancer.

She is now spending the next two years working at Bansang.

"You can", she says, "make a small difference".

Personal stories

And of course there are the stories of local people in the Gambia.

Like Alargie, a young man from a local village.

Anita brought him to Northampton to have a prosthetic leg fitted.

Anita Smith
Woman with a mission - Anita Smith

But amputation carries a huge stigma in The Gambia.

So Alargie has kept his new leg a secret.

Everyone - except his immediate family - think that he has had a miracle and that his leg has re-grown.

He would have been an outcast - but now he's working at the hospital and helping in his village.

The new ward should open soon.

Volunteers in Northamptonshire helped with the plans. The building work was done by the local community - with more than 7,500 bricks being made from a single brick mould.

But even when the new ward opens this spring, Anita hasn't finished…

"That's phase 1 - look out for phase two and three", she says excitedly.

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Bansang Appeal

If you would like to make a donation or provide support, you can contact the appeal at:

Bansang Hospital Appeal, PO Box 7121, Kettering, NN16 6BL
(till July 06) or visit the website.

Urban 4 x 4s

4 x 4 car on road
King of the road or gas guzzler?

Users say they're comfortable and safest for their children.

Campaigners say they're endangering other people's children to say nothing of destroying the planet.

We put Vicky Harrison a Greenpeace campaigner and Neil Brownlee who owns three 4 x 4s in the car together and let them argue it out.

Neil Brownlee loves his Land-Rovers. But not everyone's impressed by Neil's passion.

Greenpeace campaigner Vicky Harrison thinks people like him are public enemy number one.

While Neil spends his weekends having fun in his 4x4s, Vicky spends hers protesting against them.

She's been demonstrating at a Land-Rover dealership in Neil's home town of Northampton.

Greenpeace has specifically targeted the 4x4 company, accusing it of selling gas-guzzling cars which contribute towards global warming.

At the Brownlee household choosing a different car means deciding what Land Rover to drive.

They've got a fleet of three - mum's already left for work in hers - so the kids get to choose between the V8 Discovery and the V8 Range Rover - both cars top Greenpeace's climate hit list.

The kids love the cars so much they've even given them names.

On the road

Vicky agrees to go for a spin with Neil once the children have been dropped off.

She's concerned about greenhouse gases due to what she says are the high fuel consumption of the vehicles - and safety, particularly children being knocked over by the bumper.

Vicky and Neil in car
Vicky and Neil agree... to disagree on 4x4s

Neil disagrees - and reckons by dropping the children on his way to work he isn't making an unnecessary journey.

Land Rover didn't want to take part in our report - but they did tell us that 97% of sales of the new Discovery are diesel models which average around 30 miles to the gallon.

Meanwhile Neil and Vicky will never agree.

During a heated debate Vicky asks Neil, "don't you care about your children - they're going to inherit the planet".

Neil retorts, "They're going to inherit a 4 x 4!"

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