Two Dutch citizens, Roel Barkhof and Be Vam der Weide, are in Malawi to appraise work on a bicycle ambulance project they have been bankrolling since 2007.
Barkhof and Weide, who run the Netherlands-based foundation, Transport4Transport.nl, said they started funding the project, which is run by Blantyre-based Dutch citizen Peter Meijer’s Sakaramenta workshop, after noting that pregnant women were dying from preventable causes.
These causes include late arrival to healthcare facilities and poor transport modes, include the traditional oxcart or community members carrying patients using the back, a situation that contributed greatly towards Malawi’s high mortality and morbidity rates.
Barkhof, who chairs Transport4Transport, and Weide, the organisation’s treasurer, have so attracted media attention in Malawi they are on high demand, especially at state-run media- Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (radio) and its television arm (FORMERLY Malawi Television).
The two formerly separate institutions have since merged under a new government arrangement envisaged to cut costs and improve efficiency.
“We have been working with various NGOs, including Liebemzell, Stephanos and Maikhanda. In fact, this is the third time to be in Malawi and we are happy to contribute towards sustainable social-economic development,” said Barkhof.
Barkhof, a former Netherlands’ radio presenter and newspaper editor, said they would love to compliments efforts of the Malawi government in improving healthcare service delivery, adding bicycle ambulances have proved to be part of the solution.
Under the arrangement, Meijer produces bicycle carts, specifically designed to get attached to any bicycle.
“We produce two kinds of carts: CareCar, or bicycle ambulance, and TengaCar. This means transport cart. Thse can be used for any transport tasks and may help small scale business people come around the problem of poverty and improve their lives,” said Meijer.
The CareCar is a bicycle ambulance adapted to transport patients and pregnant women to healthcare facilities, and is ideal for rural areas where transport remains a major challenge and contributing factor towards preventable deaths.
The TengaCar, on the other hand, is a push and bicycle cart designed to carry large volumes of goods.
“The good thing about these innovations is that people will reduce transport costs while, at the same time, preventing unnecessary deaths,” said Meijer.
Minister for the Elderly and People with Diasabilities, Reen Kachere, who accompanied the dutch today, said the innovation could also help people with disabilities and the elderly.
"These two groups become so vulnerable when sick, or pregnant (in terms of women); the bicycle ambulances can thus go a long way in preventing avoidable deaths. I have discussed with them the possibility of cartering for these groups as well," said Kachere.
She people using wheelchairs could also utilise the bicycles by carrying large volumes of goods, apart from using the same to run small and medium scale enterprises.
"This government really wants to help, and would love to work closely with these people," Kachere said.