Deep in Serere district, according to a story published in the World Health Organisation (WHO) bulletin, pregnant women are ferried on carefully-crafted bicycle ambulances from health centre IIs to better-equipped health cente IVs, in case of complications.
These rudimentary ambulances have made motherhood safer in the countryside where they are in use, and life could be getting better now, with latest developments.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on February 3 launched Pulse Village Ambulances at the CHOGM gardens outside Parliament, that could aid not just pregnant women, but all villagers.
The village ambulance is a custom-built, two-wheeler designed to meet the transportation needs of rural communities and refugee settlements. The two-wheelers are designed to be attached to boda bodas, to help rural communities improve access to health facilities with the primary goal of reducing lives lost during childbirth or to treatable diseases including malaria.
Kadaga urged MPs to advocate the availability of the ambulances in their constituencies this financial year.
“We are looking at the budget and it is the time to advocate for the village ambulances to all members of parliament,” said Kadaga.
Jared White, director Pulse Village Transport Ltd, said Uganda prioritized maternal health, the reason Pulse is in Uganda.
“Maternal health is an important issue in Uganda and therefore the practical solution to the problem is the village ambulances which were designed in Zambia,” said White.
Pulse partnered with AMREF-Africa and deployed more than five village ambulances to Soroti and Serere, where a bicycle-aided model was already working in lucky sub-counties.
The deputy country director AMREF-Africa, Patrick Kabusi, said deployment of the village ambulances in Soroti and Serere has helped to eliminate fistulas, which are common in young women in the region. A fistula and the incontinence that comes with it, arise as a result of protracted difficult labour, especially among teenage girls.
“More than 15 women die every day due to pregnancy-related causes,” said Kabusi.
More than 240 village ambulances are currently in use in Uganda since 2012 to transport patients to health centres.
According to Betty Amongi, the chairperson of Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), the major challenges in maternal health are poor infrastructure, human resource and low medical supplies.
In the absence of a motorcycle, the village ambulance can be attached to a bicycle or pushed/pulled manually.