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Bike ambulances deliver healthcare in rural Africa

September 3, 2014

In rural or inaccessible areas, bicycle ambulances aren’t just practical, they can also be life-saving… and perhaps even economy-boosting. As Co.Exist reports, organizations such as FABIO (First African Bicycle Information Organisation) in Uganda, and CA Bikes, in three East African countries, are providing bike ambulances (and in some cases, other non-motorized transport for a variety of uses) to communities in need.

motorbike ambulance on rural road

CA Bikes is helping mobility in some of the world’s toughest places to get around. From cabikes.org.

Helping pregnant women reach doctors in time is a major goal for the bike ambulances. Child mortality is up to 30 times greater in Uganda than in Europe or the United States, and with bike ambulance programs, women can reach healthcare faster and more easily — either by being transported to the hospital more efficiently, or by receiving care via trained teams that arrive in their villages by bike.

FABIO, which was has been in Uganda since 2009 and is run by Georg Siegel, works with the Red Cross, UNICEF, the government and other NGOs. “The bicycle ambulance is the perfect option for rural areas where mortality rates are very high,” Siegel tells Co.Exist. “It is relatively cheap, easy to handle, and it can be driven on muddy paths, when often motorized vehicles get stuck. It enables the health care center to operate in a larger area.”

FABIO’s philosophy is a simple one, anchored in environmentalism and accessibility: “One of the contributing factors to poverty in underdeveloped areas of Africa is the lack of a viable form of transportation,” reads the organization’s mission. “From the farmer who cannot take large loads of crops to the market for sale, to the family who cannot transport their sick mother to a hospital; FABIO aspires to help build the capacity of these groups to improve their own lives.”

Siegel plans to fundraise via a Kickstarter or similar campaign, and local workers will build the bikes — which will cost $400 each — themselves, in a FABIO workshop that should open early next year. FABIO will also build the bike ambulance trailers on its own. The bike ambulances will then be delivered to certain villages and healthcare centers.

CA Bikes provides bikes, bike ambulances, tricycles, and wheelchairs to communities in the East African countryside, with a focus on helping the disabled, field workers, and pregnant women. As many as 80 percent of Ugandans live in rural communities with lacking access to the country’s network of healthcare facilities. Because of the terrain, cars are often inefficient — particularly when it’s raining — but bicycles are. CA Bikes has provided approximately 1,000 bicycles to communities in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

Chris Ategeka, a mechanical engineer who grew up in Uganda, was educated in the States, and who lost his parents to AIDS, founded the CA Bikes. Using local materials, he designed the bicycles, and has assembled a local manufacturing team. In addition to providing access to healthcare, “the whole point is to create a ripple effect with our work,” Ategeka tells Co.Exist. “That is, create employment, teach people how to make these products, and invest in the economy.”

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Category: Bicycles

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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