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Motorbike ambulances help fight maternal mortality in Southern Sudan

© UNICEF SUDAN/2010/Swangin
A pregnant woman being carried on one of the motor bike ambulances during the launch in Southern Sudan's western Equatoria state.

By Bismarck Swangin

YAMBIO, Southern Sudan, 13 December 2010 – Providing a fast, economical and efficient way to transport pregnant women to hospitals, the new E-Ranger motorbike ambulance - fitted with an attached sidecar bed in which a pregnant woman can sit comfortably - has become a veritable lifeline for Southern Sudan.

UNICEF and the Western Equatoria State government recently contributed seven of these new motorbike ambulances to the general public.

Averting unnecessary deaths

Tragically, Southern Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with a ratio in Western Equatoria that stands at a staggering 2,045 out of every 100,000 pregnant women. By affording safe access to previously out of reach medical services in the region, these new vehicles will go a long way in cutting down many of these unnecessary deaths.

Receiving the ambulances at the Freedom Square in the state capital Yambio, the Governor of the State, Joseph Bakosoro Bangasi said, “This is one big step for us to quickly respond to emergencies related to pregnancies and child illnesses. This is the best solution for our poor roads.”

“This contribution of seven bikes will go a long way in averting the deaths of women and their unborn babies”, said Dr. Yasmin Haque, Director for the UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.

Meeting basic needs

In 2006, the Sudan Health Household Survey found that only 25 per cent of the country’s population had access to adequate health services, while over 80 per cent of its pregnant women delivered at home.

This situation is further compounded by the fact that only 10 per cent of the deliveries all over Southern Sudan - a region the size of Eastern Europe - are attended to by skilled attendants.

The majority of these maternal deaths occur at home or in primary health facilities and one of the key contributing factors is the poor referral system from home to health facilities and from primary health care facilities to secondary health care facilities. The motorbike ambulances are an innovative approach to meet these basic needs. GlaxoSmithKline has contributed through UNICEF to improve the referral of pregnant women and reduce maternal complications and deaths.

Bridging the gap

“UNICEF is grateful to GlaxoSmithKline for lending a hand in the fight against maternal and child deaths in Western Equatoria state. These motorbike ambulances will bridge the gap between homes and health centers and between health centers and help pregnant mothers access skilled birth attendance,” Dr. Haque added.

The motor bikes will be based at different health units and centers across the state and communities will be educated on how to call for its services.

Riders and mechanics have been trained in the last few days and will be responsible to transport cases of complications. Their telephone contacts will be widely shared to enable community members contact them directly as well.



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