His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, on Friday, September 14, 2018, commissioned a fleet of new ambulance vehicles earmarked for 14 rural communities at a ceremony held at the State House grounds in Banjul.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Barrow emphasized that the health and well-being of the population remain on top of his government priorities. He noted that transportation forms a very important part of health care service delivery, particularly in the case of referrals, outreach, monitoring, and other related services. The fleet that would replace nine others that were in use for the past nine years has been handed to an independent transportation management agency, the Riders for Health, for proper maintenance and utility.
“These brand new 14 ambulances are expected to replace the last batch of ambulances procured in 2009. I, therefore, urge the drivers to handle them professionally and with the utmost care. I also challenge the RFH to continue to maintain the ambulances effectively. These ambulances will contribute immensely to the effective referral services to the Gambian community,” calling on them to strengthen the partnership and cooperation,” the president said.
President Barrow indicated that availability, reliability and well-maintained vehicles contribute to health promotion, lauding the long-standing partnership between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Riders for Health.
The timeliness of the commissioning of the ambulances couldn’t be any better given that rural dwellers expressed a dire need for such health care facilities during the nationwide tour.
Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Isatou Touray, said the commissioning exercise marks the beginning of a series of activities by government, in partnership with the private sector, NGOs and communities to ensure access to universal health coverage goals.
Stressing the importance of the vehicles, Minister Touray explained that medical teams from health centres use trekking vehicles provided or maintained by RFH to visit outreach clinics to conduct reproductive and child health services.
She added that the number of primary health care villages has significantly risen to 810 from 492 in 2008. Without the availability of reliable and well-maintained vehicles for trekking and supervision of service delivery, such increases in the health care system that is pivotal in the drive to attain universal health coverage may not have been possible.
“Imagine that 60% of all pregnant women and under-5yrs children attending antenatal and infant welfare services are seen at the outreach clinics”, Dr Isatou Touray said.
According to her, the ambulances that would be deployed to hospitals and health centres across the country will facilitate effective evacuation, training and communication in order to save lives of women and children.
The Country Director of Riders for Health, Mrs Therese Drammeh, expressed delight at the commissioning and assures a stronger partnership with the ministry. She explained that their services have become model for other African countries, including Kenya, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. The model also attracts students of economics from reputable universities across the world in their study into effective public-private-partnership.