News assistant editor Pete Wallace reports on the day’s events from The Gambia.

ONE of the first things that hits you is the waft of decay from the rubbish dump which every day encroaches ever closer upon the village. A village with no running water, no electricity and where the flies outnumber the population by at least 1,000 to one. The mosquitos by even more. Welcome to Kutosilo.

It’s Palm Sunday and over the babble of daily life drifts the refrains of the faithful singing God’s praises in the church. Given the poverty these villagers live in, such unswerving devotion strikes you as humbling, inspiring and completely baffling, all at once.

Facilities are painfully basic. Nine or more people may share the same cramped, rented living quarters, and what water there is from the wells cannot be drunk without boiling. Cooking, washing and toilet facilities, such as they are, are shared communally.

Children scramble barefoot over the sprawling sea of rubbish, broken glass and all, foraging for anything which they can make use of – worn-out flip flops, broken bits of furniture in the hope of mending them, old pots or pans – anything.

The stagnant, fetid water which sits in the middle of the ever-increasing rubbish heap inevitably hosts Kutosilo’s greatest threat – mosquitoes. If things aren’t bad enough now, come the wet season, the spread of malaria and the inherent mortality rate will rise again. And keep rising.

And yet, for all they have to endure, the villagers of Kutosilo never seem to stop smiling. Children whose lives could be cut short at any time by disease or infection welcome you with grins beaming from ear to ear, while grown-up villagers go about their daily lives with a smile and a warm welcome in their hearts. It is truly humbling to witness.

Project Gambia’s work in Kutosilo includes shipping out scores of mosquito nets every year to replace worn out ones and, vitally, help stem the tide of infections. Without their help, things, bad as they are, may well be truly helpless.

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