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Social Issues
Motorcycle Ambulances In Uganda: Two Wheels Can Be Better Than Four
April 18, 2013
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In Canada, your average ambulance has four wheels, sirens on top, and a fair amount of room in the back for medical equipment, attendants, and stretchers - perfect for areas with well-maintained, car-friendly concrete roads.

But in Uganda - and many other parts of the world - urgent medical help is often needed in places a standard ambulance could never reach.

The solution? The motorcycle ambulance.

The concept has been around since the First World War, when the British, French and Americans used motorcycles with side car stretchers that could transport patients laying down or sitting up.


These days, motorcycle ambulances are in use in more than 10 countries worldwide, including Kenya, the Netherlands, and the U.K., where London's Motorcycle Response Unit (MRU) works with other ambulance services to improve the speed and agility of service.

Now an aid organization called PONT, based in Wales, U.K., is supplying a fleet of 30 motorcycle ambulance to communities in eastern Uganda.

Uneven and narrow dirt roads in that part of the country make it difficult to travel in a four-wheeled vehicle, but as you can see in the video at the top of the post, motorcycle ambulances can get around much more easily.

One of the main goals of the new fleet is to reduce the high numbers of women and babies who die during births at home.


A team of Welsh paramedics and mechanics went to Uganda recently to train local drivers in how to operate the vehicles and deliver basic medical care.

As well as being easy to manoeuvre, motorcycle ambulances also cost a lot less than the four-wheeled kind: according to International Motorcycle Ambulance, the purchase price of a motorcycle ambulance is 19 times less than for a car ambulance.

And the cost of running it is even lower: on average, it costs about $500 a year to keep a motorcycle ambulance going. The equivalent cost for a car ambulance is 24 times that figure.

While Uganda's motorcycle ambulances are used to reach remote places, other parts of the world use them in high-traffic areas.

In India, for instance, where the vehicle accident rate is the highest in the world and more than 100,000 people are killed on the roads each year, motorcycle ambulances are better able to weave through heavy traffic to reach injured people and get them to hospitals.

Road safety is an issue close to the heart of actor Michelle Yeoh. When she was in the red chair last season, she talked about the Make Roads Safe initiative, for which she is a global ambassador.

As she points out in her interview, about 1.3 million people are killed on roads around the world every year. That's a death every six seconds.

Michelle speaks about road safety in the video below, starting at around the 10:45 mark.

Via Al Jazeera


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