Bikes for the World

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mobilizing Health Care

Yaw Teobol uses his bike to carry
clean water back to his family
In rural Africa, a bicycle is the momentum behind economic development.  A bicycle can deliver goods faster over a greater distance saving time and energy. It can be used to haul four times as much produce or other goods to market or the home, making trips more efficient and lucrative.

The lack of affordable transportation has a direct impact on the quality of life for the poor. The inability to leave a small, rural community severely impacts access to greater opportunity. Two thirds of villagers travel by foot, many spending hours a day walking to clean water sources, markets, and health care clinics.

The obstacle of distance compounded by the lack of transportation and poor roads creates an unbalanced healthcare challenge for many poor Africans struggling to escape poverty. Fewer than 50% of Africans have access to modern medical facilities.
 
A nurse in Ghana learns to ride a bicycle.
Her bike will allow her to see more patients daily.

Establishing qualified clinics within these small villages is a challenge. Working with limited financial resources makes it difficult for community leaders to come up with a workable sustainable program to protect the well being of their families.

Many rural clinics lack the resources to provide quality care on a daily basis. Qualified nurses often cannot afford to work for the wages offered through these programs. Many nurses cite transportation as the leading cause for leaving a job shortly after accepting it.  When the medical professional quits, the clinic is forced to close.

Over 50% of all Africans live more than four miles from a health facility. It can cost a month's wages for a poor person to hire a motorcycle to take them to a clinic. They, then, have no money left to pay for the drugs necessary to treat their illnesses.

Women often sacrifice pre- and post- natal care endangering the lives of themselves and their children. In an effort to reduce child and maternal mortality, many communities stress the importance of obstetric care.

Obstacles such as poor roads, no cars, and cost can be overcome with one simple solution: a bicycle.  In Ghana and Sierra Leone Village Bicycle Project focuses on empowering women and girls with bicycles to also break education barriers.

"When a school girl can have a bicycle this helps her stay in school longer. Studies have found the longer a girl stays in school, the longer she waits to have children. This increases the healthiness of her life and her children's lives. And so, her life is improved and her children's lives are improved," Dave Peckham Director Village Bicycle Project.

Community Health Worker Zondia Helena Nirisoa
Courtesy: Robin Hammond/Panos
In Madagascar, a community based health system was established to address many of the issues identified above. Bikes donated through Bikes for the World to Transaid in Madagascar are helping to fund this program. The bike project is being run in part by the Community Health Workers who refurbish bikes and sell them to local people at a low cost. Many nurses are also using bikes to attend to patients who live further away from the clinic.

Community Health Workers aim to have effective community participation and supportive community institutions to sustain medical professionals and reinforce healthy home behaviors.  They are also working on maternal, newborn and child health by ensuring high quality primary health care services provided by Community Health Workers. The program aims to increase access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation facilities as well as personal hygiene improvements.


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