Since 2017 and the very beginnings of Form, we’ve pledged to provide a meal to the Bansang Hospital Appeal with every product sold under our Form Feeding Fund. Located in a small village centred around one dirt track a five-hour drive from Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, Bansang Hospital is a vital resource in a country where 48.6 percent of people live below the poverty line.
As we’ve grown the Form Feeding Fund has also developed, and we’re now able to provide even more resources to the hospital, including medical supplies and financial aid for travel to the hospital.
Anita Smith MBE is the founder of The Bansang Hospital Appeal and has led the charity’s sterling work since 1992. Anita recently took a trip to the hospital and as with every visit she makes kindly updated us on the goings-on. Here’s the story of her trip.
Two things struck me on arriving at Bansang Hospital. Firstly the heat, as January would normally see temperatures average 32°C, while we had temperatures touching 45°C, in winter, in the interior. It’s clear to see how global warming has impacted The Gambia like the rest of the world. The second shock was that every single bed was occupied throughout the entire hospital. It was so very busy, and we’ve never seen it like this in January.
I met a grandma who was helping her daughter to care for three-month-old twins, Adama, who has bronchial pneumonia, and Awa, who has meningitis. It is a sad case as the mother has severe learning difficulties and the father is blind. Grandma is a kindly lady and I’m sure that she will do her best for the twins.
The Form Feed Feed though is, without doubt, rescuing these families from the horrors of what once appeared to be utterly hopeless situations to one of love and care. The provision of funds from the Form Feeding Fund is unique in The Gambia and I would think for most developing countries — how fortunate we are. The Form Feeding Fund is enabling families to receive sustenance, lactogen baby formula, prescription drugs that need to be purchased when they are not available in the hospital, and food for family escorts who have no money.
The Form Feeding Fund In Action: Saikou’s Story
The Form Feeding Fund came in particularly helpful for baby Saikou whose mother collapsed and died a week after giving birth at home. He was failing to thrive with the added complication of bronchitis and weighed just 2.5 kg at birth. But thanks to the fund and medical intervention he is now getting better.
I also met two grandmas who are now caring for twins whose mother died in the operating theatre having undergone an emergency caesarean section, never to meet her babies.
Giving birth is dangerous when you consider how common female genital mutilation is in The Gambia (thankfully it is now against the law to perform FGM here). All pregnant women are now told to arrive for the birth with a younger relative, not grandma who is too weak to give blood as transfusions are inevitable because of very poor diets and the resulting low haemoglobin levels.
Logistically the distance is too great for many to make it into the hospital, and women are told to arrive and stay in the town at least two weeks before the birth. Transport can also be a problem. If they are lucky a horse cart may be available to get them to a clinic so that they can then be transferred by ambulance to Bansang Hospital, but during the rainy season, many villages are cut off.
My time in Bansang is one of mixed feelings; sadness at so many desperate family situations because of poverty and one of sheer joy as I witness the good that the Form Feeding Fund provides, and the relief on the faces of those who are helped.
The Future Of Bansang Hospital
Thanks to your support we have ambitious plans for the future of Bansang Hospital. You will see a very large hole has been dug in the grounds of the hospital, and the plan is to create a fish farm here as fish has become too expensive with the seas now being taken over by Chinese trawlers.
I must admit I was sceptical about the fish farm considering the heat but I am confident that it will work having visited a fish farm attached to a school here. They harvest between 1200 to 1500 kg of fish every nine months and have proved that it can be done with an expert on hand to train staff members.
The Bansang management team have opened my eyes to many inventive ways to help support and sustain patients’ welfare, and I thank you for leading the way and for saving the lives of so many patients, particularly the babies, children, and their mothers.