By Landing Ceesay
President Adama Barrow has handed over keys of 20 new ambulances to the Minister of Health, Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh.
The fleet is meant for allocation to the local communities to ease their transportation needs to health facilities when the need arises.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, His Excellency President Adama Barrow said the commissioning of the vehicles is in fulfilment of a promise he made to the communities across the country.
“This was a promise to the communities that we will start community ambulances in this country, for the first time in the history of this country; because we see the need to support the community. Mostly and traditionally, ambulances are stationed at the health centres they are not within the communities. So we say now we should have community ambulances so that the ambulance will be within the communities. So that they can have access and quick reactions to save the life of the people; and with the bad roads in upcountry, we have to look for ambulances that are strong, that can adapt to our bad roads here. That is why we have these land-cruiser-like-ambulances. It was the promise we made and we kept our promises,” Barrow told Journalists.
Meanwhile, Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health said the commissioning of the ambulances is a step in the right direction and the government’s efforts to improve the health sector of the country.
“As we speak in this country, we still have people, especially pregnant women, who are carried when they are in labour; they are carried by horse cart, Donkey cart to the health facilities. We have heard of incidents whereby pregnant women travelling to a health facility on a donkey cart and were attacked by wolves, that is very recent. These are very sad incidents but this is what we found in this country,” he said.
The health minister described the development as a “game-changer in the health sector” aimed at reducing child and maternal mortality.
“This is what President Barrow wants to change. He thinks we need to do something about it and what we want to do about it is to make sure that these ambulances are situated in the communities. So that when there is a woman who is in labour or a very sick person who needs to go to the hospital, these ambulances will go to their homes, to their doorstep and pick that person from home to the health facility. This is a game-changer in the health sector, this is a game-changer in our strategy to reduce maternal mortality, under 5 mortality and to reduce mobility mortality in the whole of this country,” Dr Samateh said.
Responding to how the ambulances would be distributed, Dr Samateh said they have a distribution list to go by and all the areas in the country will have an ambulance.
“We have a distribution list and all areas of this country will be benefiting from these ambulances. They are 80 ambulances. The first 20 have arrived. We are expecting another 25 by the end of this month [September]. By the 9th of next month [October], we are expecting 10 more ambulances; and the remaining 25 will come at the end of November. If not for the global shipping challenges, they [80 ambulances] would all have been here, but due to the shipping challenges the whole World is facing now, that’s why we have only 20 ambulances,” Samateh said.
The ceremony took place at the Arch 22 in Banjul on Monday.