Among the very many serious problems faced and endured in rural Africa is the almost total failure of ordinary mechanical transport. This becomes a problem because of the central nature of transport in health care. Transport is a “means to an end”, it gives value (or usefulness) to products and services for it takes them to where they are needed most hence valuable. An effective drug in a warehouse does not have value; it is becomes valuable when it is administered to a person in need, who may be in last mile. Without reliable transport for health services to reach the last mile, for example, some of the following things happen:
Infants fail to be immunised and suffer or die from elementary diseases that were long ago conquered in the developed world.
Women in threatening labour fail to receive help or to be taken to a facility (maternal mortality is scandalously high in Africa).
Diseases break out and spread like wildfire before they can be controlled.
Testing for conditions such as HIVAIDS and TB can take so long that the patient dies before the result is even known. Probably also infecting other people and the cycle can continue.
Though mechanical vehicles such as motorcycles and trucks are bought to support health in Africa there is no automatic support infrastructure for maintenance in rural Africa. So beginning in 1989 the team that would become Riders began to work out and to pioneer systems that would enable those cars, trucks and motorcycles to work as well and as cost-effectively in rural and some cities in Africa as the do anywhere in the developed world.
The results, the impact upon community health are often staggering. Now, no child immunisation clinic in the Gambia is ever cancelled because of transport failure. The child immunisation rate in the Gambia is about 97%. All pregnant women in danger are referred, by ambulance, to a suitable facility.
In Lesotho, anyone tested for HIV, however remote the clinic, with get a result within six days. Before Riders, it was often up to three months.
In Liberia, any suspected sample of the Ebola virus known as a “priority sample” from anywhere in the country will now be tested with results quickly known across the four laboratories in the country. There will be no more surprise outbreaks.
Riders for Health Liberia has been transporting an average of 3500 samples/monthreaching a peak of a 5053 samples/month during the heightened Ebola surveillance. Before Riders 75% of the samples took more than 24 hours to reach laboratories, with Riders for Health involvement an average of 78% of samples arrive at laboratories within 24 hrs utilising a new innovative relay system to respond to the large distances.
There are Riders programmes doing vital work in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and the Gambia.
Riders International has an effective replication team formed up of African experts of Riders system with many years of experience which can replicate the Riders system in any country or in any project of any size. This makes this tried-and-tested Riders system available to be used anywhere in rural Africa and perhaps beyond. Recently this team replicated Riders system in less than two months in Liberia for the fight against Ebola