In 2017, The White Feather Foundation purchased three Village Ambulances for communities in Uganda. These vehicles are still in use today—read on to see how they continue to provide a lifeline for so many in the region.
TWFF: The White Feather Foundation provided ambulances to the Kiyunga, Magogo and Kisozi villages nearly five years ago. How are those ambulances doing today?
EA: The village ambulances are still in service, driving patients who do not have any means of transport to health centers in the area and to hospitals at a large distance whenever those patients are referred there for further medical assistance. In cases of accidents or other emergencies, the village ambulances are called for assistance.
TWFF: How are the ambulances themselves holding up? Do they require maintenance and if so, is that easy to get in the area?
EA: The ambulances are robust. They are designed in such a way that they can drive over rocky terrain in difficult circumstances. And with a village ambulance you need to be able to transport patients at regular intervals and at unexpected times. They hold themselves well. However, patients and ambulance drivers occasionally indicate it is not easy to hold the motorcycle with ambulance steady when the roads are incredibly muddy during the rainy season. Occasionally they require some maintenance, like replacing the tires. Naturally, you need to make sure the mattress inside and the cover are cleaned after transporting a sick person to a hospital, such that patients who make use of the village ambulances feel comfortable to be transported. Hygiene is very important in that sense. Whenever maintenance is required, materials are available locally.
TWFF: How have the ambulances improved the medical assistance for the community? Are there any statistics to show the improvements in childbirths, emergency services, etc.?
EA: The village ambulance has been THE improvement when it comes to emergency services. Before the village ambulance, there was simply no emergency service. The village ambulance is the only means of transport one can call for immediate assistance when there are no other options available. So, though we do not have exact figures as not every health center records how a patient came to their place for medical assistance, we do know that it has been a lifesaver for many people. We know of women that had gone into labour and faced complications and it is because of the village ambulance that their life and that of their newborn was literally saved because they were transported to hospital with the village ambulance. We also know of a case of someone who collapsed near the side of the road and who was picked up by the village ambulance and brought to a health center many kilometers down a muddy road for medical assistance. The patient was diagnosed with malaria and had to spend many days in hospital. There are many people whom we received calls from telling us how the village ambulance played a role in them reaching medical help just in time. Therefore, we know that the village ambulance has played a key role in many peoples road to recovery.
TWFF: What has been the greatest benefit of having Village Ambulances in the community?
EA: The greatest benefit has been that the ambulance is just one phone call away. In areas where the majority of people do not own a car or any other means of transport and where health centers are not around the corner, people may not be able to reach medical help in time. People who are too sick to move and women who have gone into labour and who are faced with complications now know that they can call the village ambulance which will help them go to a health center or hospital they would normally not be able to reach because of lack of transport. Had the village ambulance not been there, people without any access to transport would have reached a hospital or health center too late.In that sense, the village ambulance is a life saver to many people.
TWFF: Are there any specific stories you can share about the service?
EA: The village ambulance has more often than once helped to save the lives of patients with heart problems or suffering from pressure.
It has for example helped to save the life of Jonathan Kalisha’s wife (Mr. Kalisha is a secondary school teacher in Kisozi) who needed immediate medical care after suspecting she had suffered a stroke. She was feeling incredibly unwell, was not able to speak or move and had no transport to a health center. The family decided to call the village ambulance for help to rush the patient to a health center at quite a distance from the family’s home. It is thanks to the immediate response of the village ambulance that managed to rush her to a health center for medical care, that she later recovered. We later received a phone call from the family telling us how thankful they were as the village ambulance was the only solution they had. They don’t want to imagine what could have happened if the village ambulance had not been available at that time.
The village ambulance has also played a key role in saving the life of an elderly man who was found laying unconscious in a field. He had gone to work in his garden early in the morning, yet had not been feeling well for a while. Neighbours found him in the field and called the village ambulance to come to his rescue. Typhoid and malaria had caused him to collapse in his own garden. In the end, he recovered well. But what could have happened if there had been no one the neighbours could have called?
There are many more examples like these. Without a doubt, the village ambulances play a vital role in urgent cases where medical care is required! It has changed the lives of people in an area where easy access to transport for medical care cannot be taken for granted.
Below is a testimonial filmed just last week on-site, from a new mother who received vital assistance from a Village Ambulance when she needed it most.