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. “
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