The programmes we support are run by Riders for Health (Riders), who run large fleets of motorcycles for health workers in seven African countries. The motorcycles are used by community nurses to reach villages and by sample transporters to collect and return test results.
The Yamaha AG100 and AG200 are some of the most popular, but Honda and Suzuki motorcycles are also used. The motorbikes used were originally designed for agricultural work and so are designed to work well on unsurfaced roads, steep gradients and in any weather, they are perfect for the job. Costing approximately £2000 (or US$), they are economical on fuel use and parts are inexpensive.
But why bikes, what about the alternatives?
Donkeys and bicycles are cheap, but they don’t offer the speed or comfort that a motorcycle can. And cars are comfortable and fast but they are expensive to buy and run. Even 4x4s don’t cope well with much of the terrain that health workers must pass to reach communities in many of the African countries.
Community health workers often have 10 villages to look after at a time. And travelling by foot wastes valuable time. Any time spent travelling is time that isn’t spent caring in the community. Sample transporters need to get biological samples (like blood and urine tests etc) to labs speedily. The faster the diagnosis the sooner treatment can begin. The better chance the patient has and in the case of some illnesses, the less chance there is that the disease will spread.
Riders do use other vehicles. For instance, larger 4×4 vehicles are needed to transport many health staff to run an outreach clinic, or an ambulance is required for emergency referrals. But for single health workers, when speed and cost of the essence. It’s the motorcycle that’s the right tool for the job.