A couple of years ago I was driving the torturous bush route to Khady’s village, Madina Daffe. Along the way, we picked up a man in ragged clothes who was walking through the jungle. Afterwards, Khady told me he was the local doctor. When we were in this village the other week we made a visit to the small clinic as she has a sister there who is a pharmacist. This is the one who’d recently given birth to Simon Deidhou in this very clinic. A few years ago she’d had another baby (the one I’d enquired after when Khady told me she herself was pregnant) that was to be called Simon Fenton Deidhou, but it was a girl and died not long after birth.
There were four staff at the “hospital” – Famara Sanya the doctor (the ragged clothes chap), Khady’s sister Serie Mane, another pharmacist and a nurse. They explained they have never received a single piece of funding or help from the government. They don’t receive a salary either. They have built and funded the entire place with donations from local villagers. Given the levels of poverty and lack of jobs locally, I was surprised at how they’d managed, although to anyone looking with Western eyes, it has nothing. A simple concrete structure, an inefficient solar system (the nearest electric line is about 12 miles away), ramshackle beds, insect ridden ceilings and a poorly stocked drugs cupboard.
Although this lack of governmental support doesn’t surprise me, it is appalling when you see the projects they do support. A small example – there’s currently a programme to build a concrete wall around village football pitches. Abene had a beautiful football field – a picturesque clearing amongst tall jungle trees and palms.
Now it has a concrete wall that cost several million cfa, looks ugly and will be black and mouldy within a year or two. The purpose is to then be able to control spectators coming in and to be able to charge them 50 or 100 cfa. Well, they used to build a palm leaf natural fence and do the same thing. Meanwhile the local school doesn’t even have toilets and villages like Madina have to build their own clinics.
Madina hospital needs maintenance, cleaning products, more drugs, equipment and more. Famara explained to me that a woman came in to give birth the previous day but there were complications that they couldn’t deal with. She was put on the back of a motorbike to go to the nearest hospital – a woman half way through giving birth had to go 12 miles on bumpy pot hole ridden jungle track. Before there wouldn’t have even been any motorbikes and she would have just died in the village. The perils of living remotely I suppose. As it happens, neither she nor the baby made it, despite trying.
It seemed to me that Famara and his team were motivated and talented but limited by circumstance. He explained he’d been here several years now as he wants to help. He could have got a paid job in Ziguinchor or Dakar. He’s not sure how much longer he can continue – he has a family to feed after all and I guess that like others here, he survives by subsistence farming and odd jobs on top of the medical work.
I run trips to this village where there’s an option to stay overnight with Khady’s family and also to visit the hospital. It’s a beautiful region in the forest with lovely people. The journey there is an adventure in itself. The cost of the trip will include a small donation to the hospital. They’re also crying out for volunteers – are there are any medically trained people out there looking for a unique opportunity?
Please drop me a message for more details or pass this on to anyone who may be interested.