Alan Riding interviews Dr. Magueye Ba
Jul 13, 2017
At the suggestion of one of his professors at medical school in Dakar, Dr. Ba moved 300 miles south-east to Sinthian in 2005 to take charge of the village’s health clinic. Since then, he has emerged as an important community leader, not only helping to establish a medical center and primary school in another village, Fass, but also serving as a crucial interlocutor for Le Korsa.
– Alan Riding
Q – What were the main difficulties you found when you first arrived in Sinthian?
A – Most villagers did not know about medical treatment. If a child had a seizure, he’d be taken to the marabout (imam) or to a charlatan. At that time, we received only 180 to 200 patients per month; now we receive over 1,000 every month. For example, woman now routinely come to the hospital to give birth.
Q – What are the most frequent ailments?
A – Malaria is the main reason people come to the center. This is a problem all year round, but worst during the rainy season. The most vulnerable are children under five. If parents are slow to bring them for treatment, they can die.
Q – What about malnutrition?
A – Yes, it’s also a problem, but La Korsa’s new women’s gardening program (in Sinthian and three other villages) is helping. Traditionally, people only produced cereals. Now, with vegetables and fruit, I’m seeing improvements in the nutrition of the under-five’s.
Q – Do you offer family planning?
A – Yes. Ten years ago, women didn’t know about that and there were a lot of unwanted pregnancies. Now it is often the husband who brings his wife to seek help in family planning.
Q – Do patients pay?
A – Many belong to a health insurance agency. If they cannot afford medical attention, Le Korsa helps them. Le Korsa has also donated ambulances to Sinthian and Fass.
Q – Talking of Fass, the village south of the Gambia River, was there resistance to girls and boys studying together in the village’s first primary school, which Le Korsa is now building? (It should open in early 2018.)
A – No. The religious leaders were more worried that the school could threaten their religion (Islam). But we assured the marabout that Le Korsa is not a religious organization. Normally a community school takes in children of between five and seven, but this will include older children, from ten to twelve, because they have never been to school. Some 200 children have been inscribed to enter the school.