The launch of MRC Unit The Gambia 2016-2021 Quinquennial (5-year strategic plan) in Basse Field station on 11 May 2016 was a remarkable success. It was attended by over 100 staff and partners from the Upper River Region (URR) of The Gambia, including the Deputy Regional Governor, Regional Public Health Officer, Officer in Charge of Basse Health Centre, Manager of The Gambia Radio and Television Services and representatives from the print media. The event offered the opportunity to share our vision, training plans and highlight recent success stories in Basse.
In his opening remarks, Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRCG Director said “MRCG’s scientific vision is to contribute to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda by producing evidence-based research to improve health in West Africa and beyond. More specifically, The Unit will contribute to the control of infectious diseases of public health importance in West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, addressing the unacceptably high burden of maternal and neonatal mortality, design and implement next generation interventions against nutrition-related diseases through discovery science and strengthen research on non-communicable diseases.”
Pa Cheboh Saine, Head of Operations, Basse Field station welcomed the guest present. He thanked the URR community and staff for their support and cooperation in enabling MRCG’s research a success. He added that Basse has been the venue for several important research projects and trials, including the Pneumococcal Vaccine Trial, the Meningitis Vaccine Project, Malaria In Pregnancy studies, the Global Enteric Multi-centre Study (GEMS), the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project (PSP) and most recently a novel method of detecting Malaria, MalariSense. Mr Saine further added that a new method of Iron Supplementation in children under five years (IHAT) is expected to start in Basse soon.
Dr Grant Mackenzie, Principal Investigator for the PSP, elaborated on the eight years surveillance project which was successfully conducted in Basse. The results he said showed that the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), reduced severe pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis in children by 55%.
According to Dr Jahngir Hossain, the successfully completed GEMS Project, in Basse, provided important data that initiated policymakers, donors, international public health agencies and advocates to make evidence-based decisions about the global burden of diarrhoeal diseases. As a result, the research findings from this study influenced the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in The Gambia and in developing countries where diarrhoeal burden and child mortality are high.
Sharing her success story on the milestone achieved so far with the RooPfs’ study, Dr Margaret Pinder, said the study seeks to determine whether modern housing provides incremental protection against clinical malaria over current best practice of long-lasting insecticidal nets and prompt treatment in The Gambia. So far, 800 households have been enrolled, 201 out of 400 houses have been modified with metal roofs and screened doors.
Other speakers also include Dr Nathalie Beloum who presented the success story for MalariSense and Mr Mamadi Sidibeh, Field Coordinator, highlighted the successes of the Basse Health & Demographic Surveillance System.
Delivering the closing remarks, the URR Deputy Regional Governor Alhagie Cherno Barra Touray thanked MRCG, particularly Basse Field Station for the tremendous achievements in supporting the health system in URR. The individual lives saved as a result of MRCG’s research is highly appreciated by all Gambians.
The launch ended with the unveiling of the new Unit video which highlights our accomplishments, vision, facilities and Themes to encourage stronger collaborations, new projects/initiatives, and more scientific health research for our future.