2006 – New Children’s Ward

The aim:

To drastically reduce the high incidence of child mortality through the provision of a brand new 80 bed children’s ward – one that would offer a combination of services unmatched anywhere in West Africa, including the following;

  • Surgical Ward
  • Medical Ward
  • Neo-Natal Care Ward
  • Dedicated Malnutrition Ward
  • Dedicated area for play therapy

Why the need?

As a mother to 3 healthy children, Anita was absolutely horrified by the sight that confronted her when she first witnessed Bansang Hospital’s Children’s Ward back in 1992. Children with burns and physical injuries would often be put in the same beds as children with highly infectious diseases. This wasn’t a fault of the medical staff; it was merely the reality of huge influxes of children entering a ward that was built under very different conditions. Years of chronic under investment had left the children’s ward threadbare and utterly unfit for patients that were, without exception, severely ill. (being a largely subsistence economy, parents often have little or no money to transport themselves and their children to Bansang. As such, they often wait until it is too late before admitting their children).

Anita’s efforts in the early years had always sought to improve this situation. A British pest control company (Eagle Pest Services) helped to eradicate the rat and cockroach infestations that had been a serious vector of infectious disease transmission. Hospital wide cleaning programs and the repair of infrastructure and electrical systems helped to bring light and sanitation. But this could never alleviate the chronic shortage of beds – an unavoidable legacy of a hospital that was built almost 70 years earlier when population levels were much lower.

For 12 years, Anita had fought desperately to get the hospital to a point of development that would allow her the time and latitude to fundraise for this most ambitious of projects. Every year that this new ward remained unbuilt took the hospital further away from drastically reducing the high levels of infant mortality – and further from their objective of achieving the Millennium Development Goals for health.

The project:

The Construction

  • Removing the trees in preparation for the new Children's Ward
  • Looking down towards what was to become the malnutrition unit
  • Surgical side of the ward...2004
  • The area that was to become the surgical ward
  • Dr Annabel Kerr standing in what will be the medical and malnutrition units.
  • Anita & Wopa - our first play therapist - holding the sign for the play therapy room.
  • 8,000 cement blocks - all made by hand...curing in the sun
  • Reception area of the new ward
  • Reception are, viewed from surgical end of the ward
  • Final preparations in the surgical ward
  • Musa preparing one of the 80 beds funded by the Rotary Club of Kettering
  • Lamin, our senior orderly, inspecting his new ward
  • All bays have a hand basin
  • First brand new beds since 1938
  • All equipment now in place
  • Applying the finishing touches
  • The Children's Ward upon completion in June, 2006
  • Staff eagerly waiting to go to work on the new unit
  • Members of the community came together to help finish off the ward
  • Anita, Musa & Joni Ager (of the Kettering Evening Telegraph) putting the final touches to the ward

The Children’s Unit – open!

  • Patients were transferred on the evening of the ward opening.
  • Wopa, our play therapist, with one of the children that had just been transferred
  • Moving the children from the old ward.
  • Disbelief, as the new patients and mothers are shown around the new unit
  • Only one patient per bed. (The old wardwas often overcrowded, sometimes with 4 to a bed)
  • Doing the ward rounds
  • Delighted and happy staff
  • Breaking into dance in celebration of the new ward!
  • Happy faces in Julie's play therapy room
  • A totally new experience for all that entered
  • Tired but happy group at the end of their first day on the new ward
  • Another happy patient
  • Cousin Christine, who had the ward painted in bright colours in memory of her father (with the artist, Alaghie)
  • Designed by Dr Peter McCormick (the charities medical adviser)
  • 1 of 9 sustainable baby incubators, with built in phototherapy for children with jaundice
  • Asha, nutritionist on our dedicated malnutrition unit
  • The malnutrition unit now has its own dedicated play area
  • Recently fitted curtains -
  • One of the patients sucking on a lollypop to soothe the discomfort of having her dressings changed
  • With the help of Jeannette Payne from Kettering General Hospital, the staff now have a staff room.
  • Big Anita & little Anita
  • Patients sitting on one of the benches donated in memory of Tom Pencil



The Children’s Unit has had a tremendous impact upon infant mortality rates since it has opened. It is now undoubtedly the most advanced and effective Children’s Unit in the Gambia – and probably this part of West Africa too. The staff on the unit are rightly proud of the incredible impact that they have had on child mortality rates. The added space and facilities are allowing the medical staff to pursue innovative programs that are proving incredibly successful (notably, the burns, malnutrition and play therapy initiatives)

Funding status:

Given the extremely high numbers of children that are treated each year, there is always something that needs doing or repairing on the unit. We are fortunate to have a hospital maintenance team that is extremely capable and resourceful. However, there are always core ongoing costs. If you would like to support this programme or any other, please make a donation or contact Anita directly. As ever with donations made to the appeal, we will spend it on the absolute highest priority needs in the most cost-effective way.