Attended by over 100 staff and partners from West Kiang, the launching of MRC Unit The Gambia 2016-2021 Quinquennial (5-year strategic plan) in Keneba Field station was a remarkable success. On May 10, 2016, MRCG staff in Keneba, gathered to share our vision, training plans and highlight recent success stories in Keneba.
In his opening remarks, Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRCG Director highlighted The Unit’s scientific vision which 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.”
Dr Rita Wegmuller, Head of Keneba field station thanked all Keneba staff for their contribution to all the research conducted through the Keneba field station in the past, as this has resulted in the success of being awarded another 5 years of funding. She also pointed out that we are in the process of fully integrating with MRCG and that everybody should be open minded as this will be for the benefit of the whole organisation.
Modupeh Betts, shared Epigenetics success stories which he said aims to study Epigenetic Mechanisms linking Pre-conceptional nutrition and Health Assessed in India and Sub-Saharan Africa (EMPHASIS). According to Modupeh, the 3-year Gambian study which is led by Dr Matt Silver will follow up children aged 8-9 years whose mothers took part in the West Kiang Peri-conceptional Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation Trial. Nutrition-responsive epigenetic markers will be correlated with a range of health-related outcomes, including changes in body composition, cardio-metabolic risk markers and cognitive function. A major strength of the study is the ability to compare findings across Indian and Gambian cohorts. The collection of DNA from 350 Gambian children started in Jan 2016.
Amat Bah highlighted the success story of implementing the two HIGH projects in the Soma area in the past 2 years. He emphasised the importance of appropriately seeking the support of the government structures and slowly working with the communities earn their trust. He said 2 years down the line, Keneba can report not only the completion of the project in terms of the quality data collected but also that the Governor of the region has been happy with the work done by MRCG. Amat ended by saying that a platform has been created in Kiang West and Jarra East for future MRCG work.
According to Ousman Jarju, the on-site clinic provides an extensive outpatient‐based service, with a specific focus on maternal and child health, alongside an emergency out of hours service, a fully stocked pharmacy, an antenatal clinic and a supplementary feeding centre for malnourished infants.
Other speakers also include Buba Jabang, Keneba Head of Operations, who presented the success of the major refurbishment project of research facilities at Keneba Field Station while Dr Momodou Darboe, highlighted training successes and opportunities in Keneba.
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.