(JollofNews) – A senior health officer in the Gambia has called for the adoption of a stringent surveillance system to prevent the spread of diseases into the country.

Alieu Sonko, officer in charge of Brikama District Hospital, said Gambian borders are porous and the country needs a strong public health workforce that is grounded with knowledge to maintain surveillance.

The Gambia is bordered by Senegal on three sides except for the Atlantic Ocean. The country remains the business hub in the sub-region for traders from the neighbouring Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Conakry, Nigeria and Ghana.

“Resource should be allocated according to demand; so our demand right now is qualified human resource,” Mr Sonko said.

In 2015, there was an outbreak of measles in the West Coast Region which authorities believed   was imported from Guinea Bissau.

At least100 cases were reported in children age 9 months to 15 years; and 79 meningitis cases with 19 deaths in the months of January to September 2015.

According to the National Malaria Sentinel Surveillance System (NMSSS), the Malaria Programmatic Review (MPR) and the Health Information Management Service Statistics of 2014, malaria is endemic in all the regions.

The country’s maternal mortality rate is 433 per 100,000 live births and fertility rates are high at 4.7 per woman in the urban areas and 6.8 per woman in the rural areas and 5.9 nationally, in both urban and rural areas peak fertility occurs between the ages of 25 and 29 (DHS 2013).

Not At The Standard Yet

Brikama lies some 35 km south of Gambia’s capital Banjul, serving the entire West Coast Region, apparently the biggest region in the country with a population of 699,704 inhabitants and a population density of 397, according to a 2013 national census.

The district hospital has the biggest coverage area in the Gambia with its catchment area alone having about 40,000 people. It was renamed district hospital during President Adama Barrow’s administration.

“Name does not matter here, what matters is the quality of service we are delivering. To be honest, the health facility does not reach there yet; it is not at the standard,” Mr. Sonko argued.

With a yearly growth ration of 6 per cent, Brikama continues to expand with small communities connecting to it, leading to the addition and expansion of wards.

During a donation presentation to the hospital last Friday, Mr. Sonko made a compassionate appeal for people to stand by them to save lives, saying “if people really understand the importance of contributing to save lives, they will always participate in providing their health needs.”