By Olimatou Coker
In a bid to promote access to reproductive health services, New Yundum and its surrounding communities on Saturday inaugurated its first ever maternity ward worth over D6 million at a ceremony held at the health center.
The new facility was constructed through the support of Mama Africa Gambia Foundation in partnership with the New Yundum Village Development Committee.
The ceremony was attended by government officials, community elders and members of the Mama Africa Gambia Foundation.
This newly built maternity ward brings a bright smile on the faces of women as they will henceforth access infrastructure crucial in ending preventable maternal deaths.
Speaking during his welcoming remarks, Ousman Bojang, the alkalo, said this initiative was made possible due to collaboration between Mama Africa Gambia Foundation in the Netherlands and the Village Development Committee.
He also thanked donors for such a great initiative.
Alkalo Bojang went on to give a brief history of the health center, and said the donation has come at a time when the people of New Yundum are urgently in need of a maternity ward.
“In the early 1950s when our grandparents transferred to New Yundum, they built another health post under the supervision of Afang Bakary Bojang,” he narrated.
Alhagie Ceesay, the chairman of the New Yundum Village Development Committee, said there is a key quest to prevent maternal mortality and women’s sufferings in traveling to all the communities in search of maternity care.
“These projects will be a milestone and a stepping stone to many more greater projects of health and medical service, education, youth development among others in the community of New Yundum with partners.”
Fatou Ceesay, the Officer in Charge of the health center, expressed delight for the development and also outlined some of the key challenges the facility is facing.
“The maternity ward we are inaugurating today comprises a theater, nurses station, antenatal and postnatal wards with a bed capacity of 24, four labor rooms, each with its own toilets, on the other hand our challenges such as unavailability of a facility based ambulance and more staff to facilitate the 24 hours effective health service delivery.”
Marieke Van Der Wal, the founder of Mama Africa Gambia Foundation, highlighted the objectives of the initiative and how funds were raised.
“It was October 2019 when the VDC of Yundum asked us to help build the maternity ward, and heard the sad stories about so much suffering during childbirth, because pregnant women could not give birth in a safe place here and often arrived too late at the nearest hospital or maternity clinic. It was one of the reasons why many women lost their children and often
even their own lives. With the passion of the VDC to start this project, with a small amount from our account, the small building was broken down to start this project, bricks were made and the foundation was laid.
In the Netherlands, we started raising funds and contacted Wilde Ganzen and partnered with the project concept,” she explained.
Babading Sabally, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Technical at the Ministry of Health, reiterated his ministry’s commitment in prioritizing primary health care service and reduction of maternal mortality.
“Currently outstanding in terms of maternal mortality is about 200 and above out of 10,000 deliveries. This is not acceptable at all. The ministry and the Government of Gambia are aware of this, and out of our strategy we want this figure to be down to 70 per 10,000 births and this is in line with the sustainable development goals.”
Also speaking on behalf of the women, Fatou Ceesay, explained the difficulties they have been facing in accessing maternal services.
Ceesay said here in New Yundum, women face many challenges when they are in labor while there is no car. “Some of them even deliver on the way, but now that we have this facility, all this is in the past”.
She also thanked the donors for such a good gesture.
Ousman Bojang, the Governor of the West Coast Region, emphasised the importance of teamwork in national development.
Governor Bojang said it is very important to have the VDCs work with the alkalolu to complement one another instead of competing. “That’s not going to take any village further. So Yundum is so proud of the VDC.”