TWO officers from Avon and Somerset Police will join fellow volunteers from across the UK and Europe taking part in Operation Zephyr, an international aid mission.

Operation Zephyr - led by the National Police Aid Charity and supported by the International Police Association - aims to help establish functioning emergency services in The Gambia, West Africa's smallest country. 

The Gambia has a population of around 2.3 million people and a small Atlantic coastline, but it is otherwise surrounded by Senegal. 

It joined the Commonwealth in 1965 after gaining independence from the UK. 

The country lacks an emergency ambulance service which is having a serious impact on its communities, particularly those in rural areas who find it difficult to access medical care.

Custody officer Louise Arthur of Bridgwater Police Centre will join a convoy of volunteers driving a fleet of ambulances, a fire engine and a hearse to The Gambia in March 2022. 

She said: "As volunteers with the International Police Association, we feel really lucky to be able to support the National Police Aid Charity with Op Zephyr.

"We’ll be part of a convoy of volunteers driving a fleet of ambulances, a fire engine and a hearse to The Gambia.

"These emergency vehicles will save so many lives and improve access to urgent medical care across the country, making a particular difference in rural areas."

Bridgwater Mercury: ATLANTIC COAST: A map showing the location of The Gambia (Image: Google Maps)ATLANTIC COAST: A map showing the location of The Gambia (Image: Google Maps)

Officer Arthur will be joined by Patrick Quinton, taxi compliance officer for Bristol and South Gloucestershire. 

He said: "It’s such a privilege to be part of this mission, knowing that we will be making a difference to thousands of lives.

"The levels of maternal and infant mortality in The Gambia are ranked among the highest in Africa and the number of amputations is also alarmingly high.

"Travel to aftercare at hospitals is impossible for those with more complicated injuries and the impact this has on families and their ability to find work is huge."

According to UNICEF, over one in 20 children aged between one month and five years of age die, and one in five newborns will die within the first four weeks of life. 

These figures are even higher in rural areas. 

It is estimated their journey will take eight days. 

After leaving the UK, they will travel south through Europe via Spain before travelling down the west coast of Africa and across the Sahara to finish their journey in The Gambia.

As part of their volunteering, Patrick and Louise have a fundraising target of £5,000 to enable the purchase of these vehicles and any equipment they can be filled with.

A JustGiving page has been set up for them HERE.

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