Involved as I am in the well-being of a small community in Kenya, I do a lot of reading about illness, health and prevention, and the one thing that strikes me is that there are a lot of unnecessary deaths due to illnesses such as malaria, particularly amongst children, because their immune systems are not yet fully active, and they dehydrate more quickly.
I have been told, on good authority that a child sick with malaria needs glucose to “kick-start” the body, but this is rarely available in rural areas. So, if a child is sick with malaria (and many other illnesses) a spoonful of sugar placed under the tongue is a good alternative.
But, at the end of the day, the child needs to go to hospital for treatment – as quickly as possible. And this is where the problems start. People in rural areas rarely have a vehicle, they may not even have a “proper” road to the village. So the child has to be carried to the nearest road and then it is a wait for a matatu to come along with enough space to take the child and parent. The matatu, of course, costs money.
This got me thinking. If a vehicle were available in a town where there is a hospital (Kisii springs to mind), just how much would it cost to run a free ambulance service covering the outlying areas. All it would take is a single phone call from the village to the ambulance control and it would be dispatched to pick up the sick person and transport them to hospital.
The vehicle does not need the state of the art equipment that is to be found in ambulances in the UK. I doesn’t even have to be a specially-built vehicle. A minibus with a few seats removed or folded down to make room for a stretcher would be adequate. The crew would probably need basic first aid knowledge and be capable of driving in a safe manner.
Twos and blues would probably be useful, but not absolutely necessary. Other drivers would probably not take a lot of notice as many matatus are also equipped with these.
So, a basic minibus with a few seats modified, a stretcher that can be fixed securely into the vehicle, a part-time driver, and we could have an ambulance.
The sick, particularly children would get to hospital quickly to be treated before it is too late.
There must be a hole in this idea somewhere, it is far too easy.
Oh yes! Funding. Money. Isn’t it funny how the health of children comes down to money – or the lack of.