How Motorcycles Are Reducing Maternal Deaths in Kenya
The road on the slopes of Mount Elgon is steep and rugged. Trucks and tractors drive maize and vegetables down the mountain to sell in the town of Chwele and other parts of Kenya’s Western Province. Motorcycles are the main mode of transportation and are often used as taxis. Every few minutes one whizzes by carrying a passenger, sometimes even carrying three people at a once.
Judith Chebet, 37, is a mother of six who gave birth to her first three children at home because the health center was too far. Though all of those births were successful, she gave birth to her next three children at Kopsiro Health Center, as the facility provides trained nurses and free maternity services—a program launched by the government two years ago. But the journey is about four and a half miles each way.
Difficult roads and long distances to health centers are some of the biggest contributors to the high maternal mortality rate in Kenya. According to the World Bank, Kenya’s maternal mortality rate in 2014 was 525 deaths for every 100,000 births. These statistics put Kenya among the worst places in the world for a woman to give birth.
Wanting to change this situation, Chebet’s community, through the initial support of USAID and Save the Children, launched a motorcycle ambulance initiative. Community members handpicked half a dozen reliable motorbike taxi operators.
Each driver was vetted and had to have a license, insurance, and a mobile phone. He also must show ownership of the motorcycle and be available 24 hours a day. “Only then would Save the Children enter into contract with the motorcycle owner and employ his services as a motorcycle ambulance operator,” said Herbert Ogoti, the nursing officer who oversees the Kopsiro Health Center.
- Health Care