Emergency access to hospitals is one of the greatest problems for people in rural Kyenjojo.
Kyenjojo Health Center IV, the largest government-funded medical facility in the district, does not have an ambulance. As a result many people in urgent need of medical care are abandoned or neglected.
Last year students of the University of California Berkeley visited Kyenjojo on a study tour. The issue of access to emergency health care hit home for them and they dedicated time to analyzing what cost-effective alternatives were available. The result was a novel plan: the BodaBoda for Life Project.
BodaBoda for Life uses the ubiquitous public transport motorcycle facility to ferry patients in need of urgent treatment to hospitals and health centers. The bodaboda riders themselves received training in First Aids skills to enable them to deal with the simple most urgent issues in the field.
Each bodaboda rider who is part of the program has received a First Aid box and green jackets so they can be easily identified by the community.
Margaret Twijuke, the LC2 chairperson of Nyantungo Parish, says that although the BodaBoda for Life program is just one year old, it has changed the lives of many people.
Twijuke says pregnant women have benefited the most from the project. She recalls the days when women were forced to give birth at home in unhygienic conditions because they could not find transport to health centers. She says that since the program was launched the maternal and child mortality rate in Nyantungo has reduced significantly.
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Peter Kyomuhendo, a resident of Kayihura Parish, says the bodabodas are a good alternative because their rates are low and negotiable.
James Mijumbi from Nyantungo agrees with this. He says the cases of death from treatable diseases like malaria or diarrhea have decreased because of the easy access to the hospitals.
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The doctor in charge of Kyenjojo Health Center IV, Dennis Katuramu, says he has witnessed an increase in the number of rural patients seeking treatment at the facility. Although he has not done a detailed analysis of the trend, he says he cannot deny the link between the BodaBoda for Life program and the rising case numbers.
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Records at Kyenjojo Health Center IV indicate that it receives 50 patients on a daily basis. A year ago at this time this number was as low as 10.
The BodaBoda for Life program is a step up from the Bicycle Ambulance project that has been operational in eastern and northern Uganda for several years. Bicycle Ambulances were modified to have detachable trailers that ferry the sick to hospital.
bodaboda for life