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Introduction to The Gambia and to RVTH

The Gambia is known as the ‘smiling coast’, which is a good description of its very friendly people.

It is a small country in West Africa, with a population of approximately 1.5m.

It has a history of being peaceful and it came third in a recent World Bank assessment of financial probity/honesty in all Africa. However, it has very few natural resources and most of its foreign earnings have to come from groundnuts and tourism – both somewhat unpredictable and neither very big.

RVTH is in The Gambia’s capital, Banjul. It has recently become a Teaching Hospital, so it has just begun to train its own medical students. It has 540 beds in the hospital, and also provides Primary Healthcare for Central Banjul through its Polyclinic.

RVTH is funded primarily by the Gambian Government, but is semi-autonomous, with its own Board, chaired by Dr E.M. Samba, and its own management team. RVTH is working hard to cement its autonomous status.

We realize that money goes a lot further here, not least because of the very low levels of pay of our staff, but also because the range of services that we provide isn’t anywhere near as good as what is taken for granted in wealthier countries. But nonetheless, our financial restraints are huge. It is staggering to think that a similar operation in a developed country would have a budget of approximately 150 times more than we have.

The result of having so little money is that we are desperately short of the doctors, nurses, equipment and appropriate drugs. Patients are incredibly stoical but need and deserve better care - patients are dying every day because we haven’t enough drugs, equipment, doctors or nurses. Please click here for RVTH's most urgent needs and here for commonly used drugs. This section will be regularly updated.

RVTH also works very closely with the Medical Research Council (MRC), which has a major base in The Gambia. In collaboration with MRC, it has a number of special projects, including studies into Malaria and Hepatitis.

RVTH receives support from various UN agencies such as WHO and Unicef, from a number of NGOs and from various countries including the UK, the EU, Taiwan and Cuba.

We are constantly trying to improve the services we offer and are having some successes in this, as you can see from the Improvements at RVTH page, but find it hard to get away from limitations posed by having inadequate staff levels and our other needs .

On the other hand, almost any money (or equivalent contribution) is almost bound to make a big impact. So, if you are able to, please remember our needs (see Donor page for prompts on how this can be done.)

Read the welcome message from the Chief Medical Director (Chief Executive), Dr Mariatou Jallow.

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