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Keeping mothers safe against the odds

You are about to read a shocking statistic. In some parts of Africa it is estimated that one in 12 – that’s one in twelve – pregnant women die while attempting to give birth. And many babies die, either at birth or shortly afterwards.

 Trouble in labour starts but no medical aid comes. Because no-one can get there. There is no transport. Because there is no system for maintaining and managing transport. No-one comes to help. How can they? Not by walking.

The decimation of maternal mortality happens all over Africa, every day. It devastates families: the woman’s partner and children, her parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. It is very hard to build productive, stable societies while this scourge runs riot. It is hard to be happy in the face of such a threat to family and family life.

But here’s a more joyful statistic:

Since Riders for Health, working with the Gambian Ministry of Health, put in place a system of mobile health-care workers and ambulances to cover the whole of The Gambia, no pregnant woman – not one – has been lost because she failed to be delivered to an appropriate health facility. That’s covering a period of almost ten years. And most threats to mothers-to- be are generally very easy to deal with and can be addressed by simple physical intervention – provided that the mothers can be reached by medical staff or referred quickly to hospital if necessary.

The Gambia’s transport system delivers health care to the entire country, from villages and towns to hospitals and clinics. It enables nurses to carry out routine pre-natal examinations of pregnant women, whose chances of survival are now much closer to the European or US levels. And it enables children to be immunised against dangerous diseases.

How Two Wheels for Life are helping:

Two Wheels for Life raises money to support Riders for Health’s work in the Gambia, specifically funding training for nurses, midwives and other mobile health workers in safe motorcycle riding and the daily vehicle maintenance checks that they must routinely carry out. Two Wheels for Life also fund advanced training for professional technicians and training in such vital areas as health data collection and analysis. This is the kind of essential support that keeps a truly life-saving system working so well.

The Gambia model could be replicated across Africa:

The Gambia is the only country in Africa to have a transport system that delivers health care to the entire country, but Riders for Health and the Gambian Ministry of Health have shown it can be done. And it should be done, much more widely. For more than 25 years Riders has focused on the single, simple aim of creating systems for managing transport where there is no automatic, commercial system, such as a network of dealerships. It works so well in the Gambia and we know it would work well anywhere. And when it does, it will make the world safer for women and their children in those otherwise inaccessible places.

And that will make for a very happy mothers’ day indeed.

By Barry Coleman, co-founder of Riders for Health

Two Wheels for Life supports Riders For Health’s lifesaving work. Riders For Health is working with Ministries of Health in Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, The Gambia and Zimbabwe to bring healthcare to rural communities in Africa.