Saving lives with bicycle ambulances

A young pregnant woman suddenly goes into labour in a remote village of Malawi and rushes to a traditional birth attendant (TBA) help her deliver. After some time, the now weak woman fails to deliver the baby because it is just too big. The TBA is not prepared for this complication.

To the nearest hospital

Efforts are made to rush her to the nearest hospital but there is no reliable transport. At the hospital she would have access to crucial post-natal care not available with a TBA.In a different scenario, an expectant mother delivers her baby in the bush after walking a long distance towards the nearest hospital because she could not get there quickly.Maternal and infant health concerns have been a cause of concern for many years in many districts of Malawi. Getting pregnant women to hospital on time has also been challenging and a headache.

Effective transportation

While some women prefer giving birth with a traditional birth attendant rather than in a hospital, effective transportation is seen as a barrier preventing women from giving birth in health facilities.
This is why it was all smiles and ululation when Youth Leadership Project Africa (YPLA) donated a bicycle ambulance to Salima hospital in Malawi, Africa. YPLA among other things is a charity that focuses on raising funds for African countries focusing mainly on Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa at the present.

Donors from the Netherlands

Led by Deputy Secretary in the Labour Ministry, Eunice Chipangula, the ambulance was sourced using funds from donors in the Netherlands. Bicycle ambulances are also viewed as an effective way of transporting pregnant women in need of medical attention hence effectively addressing MDG #5 to improve maternal health. Sad stories have been told of worse maternal and infant health outcomes especially surrounding home birth. Some Malawian women also wish to know that prenatal care was more accessible.

Challenges finding transport

Besides also accessing postnatal care there, women faced challenges finding transport while recovering from labor and delivery.Homemade stretchers for carrying loved ones to the nearest health centre where viewed as unreliable. This is one of the many reasons why bicycle ambulances are seen as life savers and a way to quickly get pregnant women and the sick to the hospital on time. Bicycle ambulances are known to improve accessibility and the quality of healthcare in the country

Author: Dumisani  Sale.

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