Bikes for the World

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Health Challenges and Solutions

In our last post we touched on the importance a mother's health has on her family. Often times important decisions are made regarding health care and wellness visits due to time restraints, distance, and the expensive cost of transportation.

Another practice that has a significant impact on a woman's health is commonly known as head loading in Africa. Carrying heavy loads of firewood, clean water, or baskets of cassava causes severe trauma to the neck and back. Pregnant women are often overburdened in these tasks which are mostly carried out by women and young girls. A bicycle equipped with a sturdy rack increases carrying capacity and also allows a woman to travel faster over a further distance, saving valuable energy and time.

Harriet is able to carry more water safely on her bike rack
 For one of our newest projects, the bicycle is already improving the lives of mothers and their newborns in Guinea-Bissau. Our bike project is helping to support a micro-finance effort run by the Global Fairness Initiative in Guinea-Bissau. Through bicycle sales and repairs the group is generating income that will be reinvested in their communities. The bikes themselves, however, are having an immediate impact:

A mother in Guinea-Bissau transports her baby to the clinic
"The feedback was great. Women are using them (the bikes) to take their babies to the clinic, kids are using them to get to school, and APLACOF (a local women's cooperative fighting hunger and poverty) has already made more than $8,000 US which will be put into their micro-finance fund so they can give more loans to the women in the association," Halima Gellman, Program Director Global Fairness Initiative

In our last post we also expressed a huge need for health care workers in rural areas in Africa. Many struggling clinics cite transportation as the biggest hindrance in keeping qualified health workers on staff and clinics open. In Madagascar, clinics rely on volunteer Community Health Workers (CHW) to do much of the transport work necessary to keep families healthy.

Frederic (seen below) is the President of COSAN (health committee) and Emergency Transport. He is also a big part of the bike program established in Menabe, West Madagascar, to ensure bike parts and repairs are easily accessible to the Community Health Care Workers. Providing bikes and services in the community serve as motivation for these volunteers to help make their efforts more productive and rewarding, bringing health care to a much needed area.

Photographer: Robin Hammond/Panos for JSIMAHEFA Program, USAID 
"The bicycles that are given to CHWs are allowing them to travel further, to visit more families, to hit their health targets and perhaps most importantly it is a valuable motivation for them. I have spoken to doctors who told me the CHWs with bicycle are the highest performing. I was last in Madagascar during Polio Vaccination Week and I could see CHWs on bikes returning to health facilities with their coolers to get the next batch of vaccines. You can imagine the difference mobility makes with temperature controlled vaccines and lines of children waiting for the health worker to arrive," Caroline Barber Head of Programmes Transaid.

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