Spotlight on ‘Riders for Health’

Riders for Health is an award-winning social enterprise and an international non-profit organization that provides health-care to rural African villages using motorcycles and motorcycle ambulances. By providing healthcare door-to-door, the organization is hoping to help fight the spread of AIDS. The project has resulted in reducing the disease and illnesses by getting patients much-needed medicine. RFH works to make sure all health workers in Africa have access to reliable transportation so they can reach the most isolated people with regular and predictable health care.

Riders for Health was the idea of Barry and Andrea Coleman, a British husband-and-wife team without a medical background. Barry worked as a correspondent and feature writer for The Guardian newspaper in Britain. Andrea was a professional rider for five years. In 1986, with the help of racing legend Randy Mamola, they contacted the representatives of Save the Children, who told them that one of the biggest problems they had in getting the children immunized was reaching the ones in remote villages. The Colemans went to Africa and saw the woeful state of the roads. They also noticed a lot of abandoned motorbikes, left by the earlier aid workers that needed repair. Motorcycles are well-suited for harsh African landscape, where roads are often busted, rutted or simply non-existent. With the help of Linda Paterson, Save the Children, the local governments and money raised at bike rallies in England, they set-up pilot programs in Uganda and Gambia, and helped acquire motorcycles and train riders and technicians. They built a fleet of 47 bikes in Lesotho that delivered health-care services from 1991 to 1996 without a breakdown. At the end of that period, Riders for Health became an independent organization and expanded into Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. They have since diversified its fleet to include refrigerated trucks, minivans and ambulances and introduced a motorcycle ambulance fitted with a sidecar called the Uhuru that can be used as a mini-ambulance and double as a water pump when the bike is stationary.

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