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An ambulance service with a difference

Maedhbh McDonald | 09 September 2016 | 0 Comments

In isolated villages in rural Niger, Concern is using donkey and camel drawn carts to transport rural dwellers to nearby health posts. This inventive solution is breaking down barriers to accessing medical services.

Niger is the largest country in West Africa, with over 80 percent of its land area covered by the Sahara Desert. Village settlements are dotted around the country in pockets which are often difficult to reach. Accessing medical services can be extremely challenging in these isolated parts, however our health team has devised an innovative solution which brings health services closer to those who need them.

A donkey-drawn cart used to transport rural dwellers in need of medical attention to nearby health centres. Photo: Kwanli Kladstrup/Concern Worldwide.

In the communes of Bambeye and Tebaram in rural Niger, we are providing an ambulance service with a difference. The Concern ambulance fleet consists of traditional carts pulled by either camels or donkeys. The service provides urgent transport from rural villages to nearby health posts to ensure villagers get the medical care they need, when they need it.

This low-tech, inexpensive solution is proving very successful, especially for expectant mothers. When women are in labour, the ambulance transports them quickly and efficiently to the closest health post. This innovative service encourages women to give birth in a health centre rather than at home in unhygienic conditions and without access to medical expertise, as well as the easing the burden of labour.

A camel-drawn cart used to transport rural dwellers in need of medical attention to nearby health centres. Photo: Kwanli Kladstrup/Concern Worldwide.

In 2015 alone more than 1000 expectant mothers availed of this service, and from April to June this year the Concern ambulance service transported 138 pregnant women to medical centres.

The majority of the ambulances are stationed in villages more than five km from a health centre and there are currently at total of 60 functioning ambulances. This service is available to the whole community and in the past three months 22 children in critical need of medical attention have been transported to health centre.

A camel-drawn cart used to transport rural dwellers in need of medical attention to nearby health centres. Photo: Kwanli Kladstrup/Concern Worldwide.

Thanks to the trusty Nigerien donkeys and camels, we have improved access to health care and encouraged more people to travel the distance to get the medical attention they need. We hope to build on these successes and ensure that all those living in Niger receive the level of care they deserve.

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