Stourbridge News:

VISITING Gambia is to experience a kaleidoscope of colour, movement, sound and emotions.

Today we visited the village of Sintet and their local medical centre which was built by the villagers themselves but is now supported by the government.

Don't think it's like the NHS though.

The centre severely lacks funds, equipment, staff and expertise. When we arrived a baby had been born in the last 24 hours. A home delivery.

Her mother had lost a lot of blood and was too ill to feed the baby. The new mum could not be given blood herself as the nearest hospital was a three hour drive away and she was in no condition to travel.

The medical centre has no money or facilities for its own blood bank. As the mother’s body was prioritising healing itself there was no energy to make milk for the baby. Baby lay wrapped in a blanket very still and silent.

The medical staff were satisfied that baby was "sleeping" and would be ok, but Natalie, a trained neonatal nurse on our trip, was concerned that she had not fed within 10 hours of delivery and was lethargic and dehydrating.

Breast feeding is rightly encouraged but in cases of difficulties like this hand expressing milk is not encouraged. Wet nurses are the traditional solution.

Formula feed is not widely used and is hard to come by, but if available babies can be fed by syringe until the mum is able to feed her baby herself. There was no formula feed at the medical centre.

We were all concerned for this poor little mite and her unwell mum. Fortunately we were able to buy some formula feed in a supermarket closer to Bakau, and Lamin, one of our Gambian friends will make the three hour trip back to Sintet to deliver it tonight.

So much that we take for granted is unavailable here yet small and not terribly costly interventions make all the difference.

Project Gambia has helped the medical centre with medical supplies, but can only supply non-prescription drugs. It's sobering to realise how people here struggle for medical care we take for granted.

We visited the farm and solar powered well at Sintet. Ian checked the technical stuff on the solar panel and the villagers showed us their crops.

Lots of onions, sorrel, okra, aubergines and tomatoes. They will make some money selling some of their surplus and keep seeds from this year to sow next year’s crops.

In the village we were treated to dancing and a song of thanks for the help from Project Gambia.

Children enjoyed new footballs, face painting and colourful nail varnish. The delight on the children's faces was better than Christmas!

Bubbles were a real treat. And a treat for us was a delicious lunch under a shady tree in the middle of the village to the sound of donkeys braying, roosters crowing and guinea fowls cheeping.

Another wonderful day in The Gambia.

Sue McQuay, first year volunteer