#Love4Gambia – Sunday 5 March
Today we had the good fortune to ride directly from our hotel rooms; no jam-packing five bikes helter skelter in the back of the van! We set out at the gleaming, taking advantage of every minute of bearable temperature. We also were now on tarmac, a thrill after yesterday’s punishing ride. By 6:45am we could see the road without headlamps and by 7:15am the sun was up. It was a glorious and fast ride and we exceeded our 50 km goal by 5 km, except for Joanne who, with a surplus of energy, kept going until the van caught up with her 6 km ahead and until she was alerted that she had gone too far. Luke worked the most, riding on his Run4 bionic runner, a bike designed for runners who can’t quite leave running behind. Impressive machine though it requires 60% more energy than a bicycle. This was a great handicap (as in golf) as it allowed me to keep up with this super athlete! Today I learned a lesson about hydration and drank 7 liters of water in 4 hours of riding. That was enough and the local groundnuts and bread at the 3 hour mark helped too.
We went back to our guest lodge to cool down (amazing that that is possible when the afternoon temperature is 42 degrees). We languished until lunch, served at 3pm, a delicious plate of flavoured rice, fish and cassava. We had the good fortune to meet The Gambia’s pre-eminent cora player, Jaliba Kuyateh, who stayed at our guest house after a concert last night. Afternoon electricity came on and we retreated to our rooms where the a/c unit struggled to drop the room temperature a couple of degrees. We ventured out at sunset.
The highlight of the evening was a visit to the “Nutrition without borders” malnutrition recovery centre. Fortunately there were only 5 pairs of mothers and malnourished toddlers, compared to the rainy season when they may have five times that many. The reasons for malnutrition are common to many African countries: short spacing between births leading to mother’s poor nutritional state, a reliance on ‘pap’ made solely of cassava, the staple root vegetable and one with few nutrients, protein or fat, recurrent illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and poverty that forces mothers to work in the fields and not stay home to take care of their sick babies when they get diarrhea.
This Gambian Centre for Nutrition Recovery and Education is part of “Nutrition without Borders”. They have excellent nurses, a nice facility, excellent packaged UNICEF products to help malnourished babies recover, and basic medicines to treat malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. They weigh the babies twice daily and take their temperatures once a day. They are on top of things! The major barrier is not having the budget to feed the mothers, many of whom having to return home in order to eat or take care of their families. These mothers miss the opportunity of the very important dietetic education these mothers need to prevent recurrence. The staff and families were very happy to have visitors and welcomed us back.
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