As you know, this time last year Riders expanded its work in Zambia into the country’s Southern Province. This life-saving step saw us not only equip over 70 health workers with bright-red Yamaha motorcycles, but also train them in essential on/off-road driving skills and basic vehicle maintenance. By giving health care professionals the skills they need to manage their motorcycles they can deliver daily checks on their vehicles and make sure that they are safe to use on the road, and that they won’t break down. But we don’t just leave it at that. Each month, every single mobilized health worker is visited by one of Riders’ own professional technicians who will do a full service on their motorcycle. The result is a hands-on vehicle management system that finally gets health care moving. And it works – because Riders’ mobilized health workers in Zambia are now travelling up to 1,000 kilometres a month to deliver public health services, like vaccinations, health education and home-based care.
‘People out there think no-one can reach them... Small places, with 300 families who all know nobody can get to them during the rainy season. They have lost hope. All of a sudden, a small bike appears out of the bush, with someone carrying all the various medicines they need. That is an amazing feeling’. - Gerald Sebesi, technician, Riders Zambia
Motorcycles are an essential tool in delivering ‘last mile’ public health care services. In a country where roads are often little more than dirt tracks, they can get to remote areas that simply aren’t accessible any other way. But sometimes, we need more than a motorcycle – and that’s where Riders’ trekking vehicles come in. Robust, sturdy four-wheel drive vehicles support the work of our motorcycles by enabling the delivery of larger-scale health care interventions. We run four trekking vehicles in Zambia’s Southern Province, with each travelling an estimated 3,000 kilometres a month to regularly visit ‘outreach sites’. Here they will deliver key public health initiatives, including clinic sessions where their teams will provide much-needed pre/post natal care, vaccinations and other services. These vehicles are also used to transport critical medical equipment, including drugs and vaccines, so that clinics, health centers and health care professionals are never out of stock.
As we look forward to 2013 it is our aim to keep our vehicles running to their target of ‘zero-breakdown’ and to keep health care moving in Zambia’s Southern Province. Together our fleet of motorcycles and trekking vehicles form a life-saving chain that is bringing public health services to some of Zambia’s most vulnerable people.
With your support, health workers in Zambia mobilized by Riders for Health-managed motorcycles travel over 1,000 kilometers each month to reach communities with care. Thanks to you and supporters including the Bill & Melinda gates Foundation, we were able to recently expand our program in Zambia into the Southern Province of the country, mobilizing over 70 health care professionals and providing better access to health care for thousands of people.
As a key part of this investment, Riders for Health has developed a partnership with Stanford University to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of reliable transportation in the delivery of care. The program began in August of 2011 and data collection is set continue into 2014. Please stay tuned for more ways you can help between now and then, in Zambia, and in other parts of Africa.
Together, we are moving global health forward.
Samson Phiri is a Clinical Assistant based at Lweembe Rural Health Center in Nyimba district, Zambia. For the past 22 years, his role has involved visiting rural communities to conduct growth monitoring and immunizations, to screen patients who may be at risk of contracting a disease, and to help prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.
Samson used to have access to a motorcycle for his work, but it was very unreliable and has been broken down since 2009; he told us, “I am unable to do most of the work because I don’t have transport... I borrow a bicycle but sometimes can’t do the work because the owner of the bicycle needs to use it.”
He’s responsible for 360 villages in the Health Center’s catchment area, the furthest of which is 70 kilometres away. The only way he visits the members of the community is through outreach clinics, twice a week. He wants to do more, and visit people in their homes, but transport is a problem.
This January, Samson, along with six of his colleagues in Nyimba district were given Riders-managed motorcycles to conduct their work.
He also attended refresher training with Riders to make sure he is safe on the roads and knows how to maintain the motorcycle. Across Africa, motorcycles are often donated with no training in basic riding skills or in vehicle maintenance for those that will use or manage them, and with no planning for access to quality parts or trained technicians to maintain them. The breakdown of these motorcycles leads to disappointment for the donor; frustration for health workers; and people in rural communities not being supported, because the help they need cannot reach them.
Riders aims to embed a culture of safe riding and good management for future generations so that we can move towards a sustainable solution for health care delivery in rural Africa. The training we offer helps achieve this;at training, trainees develop skills to help them conduct their lifesaving work safely and efficiently.
Although Samson had ridden a motorcycle before he says“[the training] is important because we are being taught how to maintain the motorbikes as well.” All health workers are taught to carry out daily maintenance checks that will ensure the overall function of their motorcycles and help to keep them running in line with Riders’ ‘zero-breakdown’ standard.
Samson completed a diary about his training, to document his experience that we thought we be of interest to you, a generous supporter of our work. Day 1: Today I learned about the daily services of the bike known as PLANS [Riders-designed preventivemaintenance system: Petrol, Lubricants, Adjustments, Nuts and bolts, Stop (brakes, tyres)], about rider motorcyclegear and how to stop.
Day 2: Today I learned how to start the motorcycle riding up hill and downhill, I found this difficult, I also learned about riding the motorbike at speed and changing gears.
Day 3: Today I learned how to ride the motorbike through the cones in a figure of eight. I enjoyed riding the motorbike through the cones with one hand.
Day 4: Today I learned how to signal when riding motorcycle, and how to ride through mud, trail riding.
Day 5: Today we learned about emergency stopping.
Samson was “very satisfied” with the training, “It was a wonderful experience, one of a kind. [The trainer] is a very skilled and talented young man.” The trainer was Marvin Tembo, you can read about Marvin using the link below.
Equipped with new skills to tackle the harsh African terrain and keep his motorcycle running day after day, Samson now thinks he will be able to reach many more families living in rural communities with vital health care.
“[Reliable transport will] make it easy for me to take the services to the people, I will be able to help and respond quickly to the needs of the people. “
It has been an exciting few months for Riders’ program in the Zambia which has recently seen the launch of a new vehicle fleet in the country’s Southern Province. This includes 76 motorcycles and four trekking vehicles, which will be used to provide life-saving health interventions – including immunization campaigns. Training is key to the delivery of a reliable and consistent service, and all vehicle users will be trained in driving skills, road safety and daily vehicle maintenance. Training began in January this year, and is now well on the way to completion.
Thanks to the help of our supporters, we are making a positive impact on health care delivery in Zambia.
Riders began working in Zambia, where 14% of children do not make it to see their 5th birthday, in 2009. At that time we put 5 trained couriers on the road in the Chadiza district to collect patient samples and deliver results on a regular,timetabled basis. This is particularly important with reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Having seen great success in that pilot program, we expanded it in 2010 and are now in the midst of bringing it to the Southern Province. We are also in the midst of a transportation management program involving trekking vehicles which are used for delivering vaccines for National Immunization Days. Millions of young children die of diseases that could have been prevented by routine vaccination. With your help, we can make sure health workers have the reliable transportation needed to reach communities for these critical immunization clinics.
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