UK Plumber Hopes to Improve Sanitation at African Hospital

Eight-day trip will include helping local tradesmen install new toilets and shower cubicles
UK Plumber Hopes to Improve Sanitation at African Hospital
UK plumber Mark Antrobus hopes to improve sanitation conditions for residents in Gambia. Photos and story courtesy The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

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A plumber from the United Kingdom is swapping his work van for a scooter when he heads to Gambia this month.

But there will be little sightseeing involved for Mark Antrobus, who will be working to improve sanitation at a hospital.

Antrobus, who runs Millside Heating Services, is heading to the West African town of Bansang.

The eight-day trip will see him helping the project to develop and refurbish parts of the hospital in the remote inland town.

Antrobus, 51, is one of a team of three volunteers heading out from the UK to offer their expertise.

 “I’ve had all my inoculations, which have cost more than the return flight,” he told The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

“I have got my malaria tablets and had jabs including yellow fever, hepatitis A and B and tetanus,” he says. “I didn’t have the one for rabies but if I get bitten I’ve got 24 hours to get some medical assistance. The fact that I’m going to be in a hospital means I’ll get this within minutes.

“They’ve organized a couple of scooters for us to get around and I’ve never ridden a bike before but I’ll give it a go,” he says. “I’m excited to be out there but I’ve got some reservations about what I’m going to see with the quality of life.”

A trustee with the British Plumbing Employers Council, Antrobus will travel to Bansang Hospital with Watson Carlill, from Stroud, and Derby-based Dave Johnson.

The hospital is situated in the African bush, about 200 miles from the coast.

To get there they must take a 10-hour road trip up the Gambia River after flying into Banjoul.

The small 160-bed hospital provides for the health needs of 600,000 Gambians.

The Bansang Hospital Appeal is currently working to transform sanitation provisions at the hospital.

Antrobus was put in touch with Anita Smith, who founded the charity after witnessing the suffering and deprivation of patients and staff.

He encouraged her to apply for funding through BPEC’s Life Award.

The award was set up to support projects that use plumbing skills to benefit life anywhere in the world.

The money is being used to install new toilets and shower cubicles in the maternity ward, eye unit, labor and women’s wards. (Pictured is the condition of the male patients' toilets.)

 “I will be overseeing an awful lot of the work going on and getting involved with the plumbing,” he says. “As a training and certification body we are interested in the skills of the local plumbers that have been brought in.

“Our focus will be on improving the skills of the local guys, supporting the local economy by buying the materials locally rather than importing them and improving people’s lives through sanitation and having clean water," he says.

“The greatest advance in medical history was the invention of sanitation and clean running water.

“It will greatly affect the mortality rate of the patients. I think we’ll make monstrous progress.”

As well as the plumbing work, Antrobus plans a full energy inspection to enable the hospital to make the best use of its electricity, currently only in use for five hours a day.


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