A bit of creativity never hurts, especially when it comes to solving health problems in developing countries. Experts agree that new innovations can help and even create a sustainable market for health products, as long as researchers do their homework first.
That was the impetus behind the eRanger, a motorcycle ambulance with a sidecar stretcher capable of driving through the African bush terrain. “The donated ambulances (from the West) won’t do 100 yards in Africa,” said Mike Norman, a British engineer who designed the motorcycle ambulance. The sidecar has space for the patient to sit or lie down on the cushioned bed and seat belts for legs and waist. There is also space for a health worker to sit behind the patient to provide care and support.
Motorcycle AmbulanceSo far, Guinea, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa have bought the ambulances, which sell for about $6,200. Last year, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and others donated $250,000 to UNICEF in Southern Sudan specifically to buy the vehicles.
Norman says health officials have focused on using them to get pregnant women to health clinics to deliver their babies. Since the motorcycle ambulances were introduced in one district of Malawi several years ago, death rates among mothers have dropped 60 percent. Other African countries have seen improvements in infant and maternal health and survival rates.