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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 per cent of its land area covered by the Sahara Desert. Village settlements are dotted around the country in pockets that are often difficult to reach. Accessing medical services can also be extremely challenging in these isolated parts. However, our health team has devised an innovative solution that brings health services closer to those who need them.
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, and eases the burden of labour.
In 2015 alone, more than 1,000 expectant mothers availed of this service. 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 a 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 the health centre.
Thanks to the trusty Nigerian 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.