By Arret Jatta
The Gambia’s Health Minister Hon Ahmadou L. Samateh announced that the country “happens to have a higher rate of deaths due to accidents and injuries than many other countries even in the developed world” during a validation meeting on the National Trauma and Injury Plan (NTIP) held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center on 27th February 2023.
Minister Samateh highlighted that nobody is immune to trauma and injury, “we are more prone to developing injury than other diseases because it can happen at any moment”. Announcing some key statistics on injuries and accidents in The Gambia, Minister Samateh revealed that within a period of five years from 2017, the number of cases of trauma in major hospitals was about 5,000 [every year] and increased to 9,000 in 2021 which is almost twice as much as previous years.
This forced the Ministry of Health to “start wondering what is happening, yes most of the injuries are road traffic accidents but there’s equally a rise in domestic injuries as well”.
Looking at some of the statistics on road traffic deaths, a Standard Newspaper publication revealed that “the country records just between 12 to 15 road accident deaths monthly, with November 2022 recording just six deaths, far fewer deaths than any other period”. The report quotes Police Commissioner “King” Colley saying that “so far 115 [road traffic accident] deaths have been recorded” from January to November 2022. According to the report, “the police collected one million dalasis (about £13,000) from offenders in November alone”.
Program Manager of the National Cancer Control, Dr Kebba Bojang notes that the need for the NTIP is what necessitated the urgency for such a plan to optimize care for injured people in The Gambia in an effort to reduce mortality and disability rate, especially from road traffic accidents.
Health Minister Samateh deliberated on some of the factors he believes lead to road accidents. “If you talk about road traffic accidents, the calibre of vehicles that ply the road need to be looked at. Like the big trucks “gele gele” and when those kinds of vehicles get involved in an accident many lives are lost”.
A representative of the AO Alliance Dr Claude Martin Junior spoke on the existence of their Institution for the last 10 to 15 years which is a “nonprofit development organization dedicated to strengthening care of the injured in over 30 low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia”. They do this by bringing together both state and non-state actors to improve national trauma systems prevention.
Dr Claude noted that the prehospital care you get before getting to the hospital or health facility is critical to recovery because sometimes it may take time to get to a health facility so people need to be trained to attend to injuries even before they get access to proper health care.