Reaching the unreached in Africa
I’m a new-ish mom who has lived in Chicago for over 13 years. There are lots of places I walk, but the 6.5 miles to my obstetrician at Northwestern when I was two weeks overdue two years ago was not one of them. Nor did my did my parents walk the 10 miles through rural Wisconsin to bring my infant brother, feverish and lethargic, to the ER in Sheboygan where he was later diagnosed with, and treated for, life threatening meningitis.
Mothers in rural Africa walk. I saw some of them when I visited the Gambia last summer. They walk from a dozen area villages, gathering to see a community health worker who will vaccinate their children, or treat them for malnutrition. Imagine their heartache if the health worker does not show up.
Aid exists to prevent and cure diseases that devastate rural Africa, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference if it doesn’t reach the people who need it. Millions of people across Africa remain deprived and isolated from health care due to distance, terrain, and lack of transportation. African health workers can be responsible for up to 20,000 people, scattered across miles of treacherous terrain. There is little or no public transportation and even the best roads are little better than dirt tracks. What's the point in spending hundreds of millions on life saving medicines and technology if it can't reach the people who need them in time?
Delivering health care on foot or by bicycle is an exhausting and near-impossible task, and even when vehicles are available, they quickly break down if nobody has the expertise or resources to maintain them.
Here’s the good news. At the immunization clinic I visited, Saul, the health worker for whom the women were waiting, did show up and he can be depended on to show up regularly because he is mobilized by Riders for Health.
Riders is an international non-profit and social enterprise that has been providing reliable, motorized transportation for the delivery of health care for over 20 years. Our programs in Africa, all staffed by local people, are also providing health workers with the necessary training in riding, driving, maintenance, and trip planning. Together, we can make a difference. We can make sure health care reaches mothers and their children, reliably and predictably. Find out how at www.riders.org
Lisa Johnson Bakker, Development Director, Riders for Health
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