Farafenni HDSS is located 170 km from the coast in a rural area of The Gambia, north of the River Gambia. It was set up in 1981 by the UK Medical Research Council Laboratories to generate demographic and health information required for the evaluation of a village-based, primary health care programme in 40 villages. Regular updates of demographic events and residency status have subsequently been conducted every 4 months. The surveillance area was extended in 2002 to include Farafenni Town and surrounding villages to support randomized, controlled trials. With over three decades of prospective surveillance, and through specific scientific investigations, the platform has generated data on morbidity and mortality due to malaria in children and during pregnancy; non-communicable disease among adults; reproductive health; and levels and trends in childhood and maternal mortality. Other information routinely collected includes causes of death through verbal autopsy, and household socioeconomic indicators. The current portfolio of the platform includes tracking Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) attainments in rural Gambia and cause-of-death determination.