Africa, the Outside Edge

Dec 1, 2007
Author: Kingsley Holgate

The adventure continues… Kingsley Holgate and his team have reached Guinea in West Africa as they continue the journey along the Outside Edge of Africa

Blog 25 – Guinea

Distributing long lasting WHO-approved nets to a deaf and dumb school in Conakry, Guinea

Traffic choked downtown Conakry on the coast of Guinea West Africa at a school for the deaf and dumb. The children are bright eyed and beautiful, and to greet us they have both hands in the air. With us is Isaac Kekana, South African Ambassador to Guinea.

Dressed in a t-shirt branded with the South African flag he makes us feel proud to be South African as he assists us in giving each and every child a long lasting mosquito net and a pack of exercise books and pencils. All this activity is part of our Grindrod supported humanitarian expedition to circumnavigate Africa in Land Rovers and inflatable boats. Then with a police escort we’re off to the general hospital where every mother and infant receives a life saving net.

Mr Isaac Kekana, South African Ambassador to Guinea places a life saving mosquito net in the hands of a mother and baby – they are the most vulnerable

You would think that we’d have become battle hardened by now – but still the emotion hits you in the stomach. The desperate poverty, children dying from malaria because the mums cannot afford a mosquito net. In the children’s ward we place a net on each bed. Bed by bed down the corridors, the smiles of appreciation and handshakes from the parents is heart warming. Poor electricity supply with constant power cuts has little premature children’s lives, two and three to an incubator, hanging on a thread – now there is a mosquito net for each mother and infant. At least they will be safe when they get home.

A ministry of health official makes a speech. The minister of Lands and Mines endorses the Mandela Scroll in support of malaria prevention. The media scribble in their pads, local TV and radio are present. The Ambassador writes… “Viva the expedition, viva.”

A journalist pulls me aside: “Congratulations,” he says in his French accented English. “Hand by hand, it’s the only way. If you gave the bales of nets to the officials they would sell them in the market – and these poor people would never get.”

Next day with local malaria prevention volunteers we make our way past the notorious camp Boiro where many anti government supporters were tortured and killed and some even hung from a bridge over the highway. Careful not to be seen taking pictures of the bombed out palace and loaded with mosquito nets we launch into the Atlantic – our destination is the islands of Roum, Kassa and Tamara – small island village communities that need mosquito nets.

That’s the nature of the expedition – saving and improving lives through adventure – tomorrow we load up the Landies and head up the coast for the ex-Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau. Like Mozambique and Angola it had a long war of liberation followed by bitter civil war – we don’t know quite what to expect.



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