We help 4,000 patients every year get the lifesaving help they need at a health centre or hospital in Mbale region. Our priorities are women in labour or having maternal emergencies, children under 5 often with malaria and people who’ve had accidents.
We’ve donated 34 motorbike ambulances, 30 bicycle ambulances and 90 mountain stretchers. We help local health districts with support towards fuel, repairs and co-ordinating the network.
Before PONT volunteers visited Uganda, Mbale had no ambulance service at all. There are no doctors in most Ugandan villages. Many people in Mbale region live a long, difficult journey from the hospital or even from the nearest health centre.
Expert Training Partnership
A grassroots approach was needed, so Welsh Ambulance Service staff developed training that takes village health workers to the level of qualified First Emergency Responders able to administer lifesaving first aid and recognise when further treatment is necessary.
But when patients needed treatment at a health centre or hospital, the question was – how to get them there?
Mbale is a mountainous area with many villages only accessible by steep paths. Roads are generally poor, especially in the rainy season.
“I called for help”
When Esther’s labour did not go to plan, she was grateful she could call on a motorbike ambulance – read her story.
Watch: Godfrey is a Community Health Worker and Ambulance Driver– he tells us how his work is lowering maternal mortality rates.
The answer was motorbike ambulances. They are designed to carry patients across even the roughest ground on roads and tracks that cars and other vehicles can’t access.
- The bikes have space for a health worker to sit beside the patient to provide care.
- A cover provides shade when the sun is hot and shelter when it’s raining.
- They’re cheaper and easier to maintain in remote areas than cars.
- Each driver is trained in basic mechanics.
- They have access to the PONT workshop for more major repairs.
We began with just three ambulances in 2010 and expanded to a fleet of 34 in 2014 thanks to the support of Rotary District 1070.
There are mountainous areas of Mbale that even the motorbike ambulances can’t reach. So we have also commissioned 30 bicycle stretchers, and 90 wheeled hand stretchers. A stretcher can meet the motorbike ambulance at the nearest road.
Ours is an integrated approach. As well as training health workers and drivers, our health links co-ordinators have trained staff in health centres to understand the volunteers’ roles and link up with them.
Motorbike Ambulance drivers have become respected by health staff, and also by their communities. Many of them, started off as village health team volunteers. They’re people who know and care about their communities, and are keen to be empowered to serve them better.
PONT’s Ambulance project truly shows the power of partnership. Welsh Ambulance Service staff, PONT engineers and local people in Mbale are all working together and learning from each other, and it’s life-changing.Communities now know that if they have an emergency, there is someone who can help.
In 2019 our motorbike ambulances made 4841 journeys: 2977 pregnant mothers, 1264 children and 600 other people. Each journey might have saved the life of someone like Esther.