14 June 2020
The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has donated materials worth over D1.5 million to the Ministry of Health, to support the national COVID-19 response. The items were presented to the Minister of Health, Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, at a ceremony to launch the COVID-19 Diagnostics laboratory at the National Public Health Laboratory Services.
The donated items include 5 brand new Yamaha motorcycles to support mobility for effective contact-tracing and community engagement; 10 locally produced hospital beds for use in the treatment facilities; 200 3D-printed face shields; and 500 locally produced face masks.
As part of its efforts to support local businesses and manage the global shortages of PPE, the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM partnered with Make3D Gambia to produce the 3D-printed face shields and other medical devices, also using locally available materials. The Unit also partnered with Fandema Mbolo Association and Facil Clothing – two local enterprises – to produce the face masks for use in low-risk environments. These have been reviewed and approved by the Gambia Standards Bureau. The hospital beds were manufactured in the Unit’s workshop in Fajara by Gambian skilled workers, using locally available materials.
“Given the current situation and the impact it has had on lives and livelihoods, we are proud to have established strong partnerships with Gambian businesses for the production of these essential materials, to support the national COVID-19 response efforts. Indeed, we all have a role to play”, said Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, Director of the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM.
The MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM continues to support the Ministry of Health in the COVID-19 response in other areas, including the successful treatment of the first and third patients in its Fajara clinic. Since 15th February 2020, the Unit has invested more than 2.3 million Dalasis to conduct over 2000 tests in the Fajara laboratories. These tests were done in collaboration with staff from the National Public Health Laboratories (NPHL). In addition, the Unit has spent an estimated 6.5 million Dalasis to stock up on reagents for the laboratories.
The laboratory team have also been supporting the efforts to prepare the NPHL to start COVID-19 testing. Through its collaboration with the NPHL, the Unit has loaned 1 real-time PCR Machine, 2 PCR workstations and other minor laboratory equipment to the national laboratories,and has also undertaken the calibration and certification of pipettes and safety cabinets there. Furthermore, about 3.3 million Dalasis has been spent on minor equipment to prepare the Unit’s Keneba and Basse laboratories for testing. Staff of the Unit also continue to contribute to the various national expert committees managing the pandemic, and have been providing meaningful inputs and contributing to response actions at various levels.
The MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM renews its commitment to continue working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to effectively respond to the pandemic, in line with its mission to save lives and improve health in The Gambia.