Stock cubes, peanut butter and Yellow Jack


Forget the beach towel, the holiday reads and the factor 50 – the essential items needed for my forthcoming trip are stock cubes, peanut butter, gardening gloves and a paintbrush.

With less than three weeks to go until I jet off to The Gambia the charity I will be working with has sent out some instructions and helpful advice to its team of volunteers.

Lunch each day is a bread roll – so the advice is to take some jam, peanut butter, Marmite or tins of tuna.

The stock cubes are to give to local people and apparently they are very much appreciated. Meat, fish and vegetable versions are all welcomed, to help flavour daily dishes of rice and vegetables.

The charity is also asking volunteers to pack old mobile phones if they can, along with packets of seeds.

The stock cubes and peanut butter will be squeezed into my suitcase, alongside aid I have already packed to take to the village of Bonsa. I think I can just about fit in a few oxo cubes in between the many pairs of second hand shoes, miniature teddy bears and footballs I’m taking with me.

Not that I feel much like packing at the moment. Just over 48 hours ago I had my yellow fever vaccination and either I’ve got a cold coming, or I’m experiencing side effects (which apparently 10-30% of people do). I’m hot, then I’m cold and I’ve got a sore throat and a headache, but hopefully a couple of pain killers should do the trick.

Although I shouldn’t complain. I’m lucky to be able to have a vaccination and to have protection from the disease, unlike many local people.

Yellow fever causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations and is transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes. Today nearly 90% of the infections occur in Africa.

And it sounds quite nasty. It can start with a fever, chills, nausea, muscle pain and a headache but can then be followed by a toxic phase, in which liver damage and jaundice can occur and can lead to death. Because of the jaundice, those who have it can turn a yellow colour, which is why historically it was known as Yellow Jack.