With the help of the eRanger Production Company (winner of the World Aware Award for Technology for Development in 1999 and the 2006 Pan African Health Award), The Kambia Appeal helped to improve access to healthcare for seven communities in Kambia by running a small network of motorbike ambulances that provided low-cost transportation for people to travel from their homes in remote rural areas to their nearest health centres.
8 motorbike ambulances linked 153 villages with 7 health centres and the main district hospital, serving a total population of 58,039 people. These remote communities were identified by the Kambia District Medical Officer as being some of the most vulnerable in the district due to severe levels of poverty and the lack of organised public transport.
In July 2012 our fleet of motorbike ambulances arrived in Kambia and new drivers and CHOs attended a week-long driving school at The Kambia Appeal base to learn how to handle and maintain the new vehicles.
Although the ambulances were available for all emergency cases, the main aim of the project was to help pregnant women gain access to maternal healthcare. Typically, women in the project catchment area have to walk between five and twelve miles to reach their nearest health centre. Public transport is limited, and if private taxis are available the cost of an emergency journey is often highly inflated beyond the means of most families. Understandably, women suffering obstructed labour, pre-eclampsia and haemorrhage are not able to make the arduous journey on foot and so are forced to stay at home without medical attention. Without adequate transportation to reach the health centre, such women and their babies are likely to die or suffer permanent injury or ill health, and their deaths very often go unrecorded.
The motorbike ambulances were purchased from the eRanger Production Company. eRanger’s innovative vehicle design combines the benefits of a motorcycle with the cargo capacity of a sidecar, in a package that is cost effective, rugged and simple to maintain. The vehicles have proven to be extremely durable, reliable and fuel efficient and are already making a positive impact for health projects in Malawi, South Africa, Afghanistan and Sudan. The motorbikes and sidecars are easier and cheaper to run and maintain than typical 4×4 Land Rover style ambulances, and can reach more remote areas where roads and tracks are often narrow or in poor condition. The motorbike ambulances provide an innovative, cost-effective solution to the problem of emergency transport in remote areas.
We also supplied villages in the area with a sturdy bicycle so that when an ambulance is required someone in the village can cycle to the health centre to raise the alarm. We are very grateful to UK charity Re-cycle for its donation of ex Royal Mail bikes for us to use in Kambia.
In order to encourage the local communities to use the motorbike ambulances, a thirty minute publicity film, Call Di Lifesaver! was commissioned by The Appeal to be toured and screened in all the villages in the catchment area. The film dramatises three medical scenarios in which people could benefit from transportation to the nearest health centre. The film has now been toured twice throughout the two communities and has been watched by over 17,000 people. Currently, the ambulances are being used on average 16 times each month. It costs us about £750 a year to run and maintain each of the motorbike ambulances.
Watch the Call Di Lifesaver! education film and see the ambulances in action.
We are extremely grateful to
The Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation
for their three-year support of our motorbike ambulance project.