Banjul, April 13 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou, who is in The Gambia for a state-visit, will visit a volunteer medical mission sent by Taiwan's Mackay Memorial Hospital to the country to show his support for the operation.
Ma will head to Serrekunda, a city southwest of the capital Banjul, on Saturday to visit the medical mission currently stationed at Serrekunda Hospital, one of three hospitals in the West African country where the mission has offered free medical services.
Earlier in the month, the Taipei-based hospital sent its team of three pediatricians and three internists to two other Gambian medical institutions -- Brikama Health Centre and Jammeh Foundation For Peace Hospital -- to help supplement the country's inadequate medical resources.
According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, the country with a population of 1.8 million has only 0.4 physicians, 5.7 nurses, 0.1 dentists and 0.3 pharmacists per 10,000 people, all ranking among the lowest in the world.
The Gambia's total health care expenditure was estimated at 5.5 percent of GDP in 2008, according to the WHO report.
The Taiwanese hospital first assembled a medical mission to the country in 2010 at the invitation of Gambian Foreign Minister Ousman Jammeh, who hoped Taiwan would provide medical assistance after a trip to Mackay Memorial Hospital in March that year.
Jammeh visited the hospital for a physical check-up and said he was impressed with the services provided by the staff.
Eight hospital physicians then headed for The Gambia to offer free medical care, a mission that was partially funded by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and well received by local residents.
Aside from offering basic medical treatment and drug use counseling, the team also took the initiative to assess the conditions of major hospitals and sought future partnerships.
The Gambia is the second leg of President Ma's 12-day trip to three of Taiwan's four African diplomatic allies. He has already visited Burkina Faso and will head to Swaziland later Saturday after visiting the mission.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Scully Hsiao)