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Health | Transport

April 20, 2014

A home-grown bike business rolls out emergency health care in Uganda

contributor: Rob Goodier

Unpaved roads and a lack of vehicles don’t stop bike ambulances and a new pilot program for mobile clinics in East Africa.

A Ugandan engineer and entrepreneur has unleashed fleets of bicycles and bicycle ambulances on the country’s unpaved roads. Under-equipped hospitals and emergency services that stop at the city limits no longer keep rural patients away from hospitals, thanks to Chris Ategeka’s work in his home country.

Ategeka founded the non-profit CA Bikes to employ Ugandans to build and operate ambulances pulled by bicycles and motorcycles. At one ambulance outpost, in a period of just two weeks, two bike ambulances shuttled 27 expectant mothers to the medical center and back with their new family members.

Ategeka’s life story is one of tragedy to triumph. He lost both of his parents to AIDS when he was a child and was taken in by the Christian charity YES Uganda. As he wrote on Reddit during a recent AMA, YES and its founder, Carol Adams, helped Ategeka complete two degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. He has since founded three businesses, including CA Bikes.

Photo courtesy of Chris Ategeka

Now, Ategeka is addressing a new problem in Uganda’s rural health care, overcrowding at the clinics.

“We’ve been taking people to the hospital and you drop them off and come back and they’re still in line waiting to see one doctor for pain pills or malaria pills or whatever they need. We figure that if we can bring the hospital to them then we can leave the [brick and mortar] hospital for people who need urgent care,” Ategeka told E4C.

In response, he launched a mobile clinic pilot program that provides basic health services at places where people gather, such as market days.

“Today we’ll bring a dentist, tomorrow an eye doctor, just like that,” Ategeka says.

The bike ambulance riders and heads of the clinics charge for their services, roughly USD $.50 for ambulance rides and service-tailored fees for the clinics.

“There’s lots and lots of need,” Ategeka says. “The world is moving fast and we try to make a dent where we can.”

CA Bikes accepts donations at its Web site. There is no formal volunteer program but those interested can contact Ategeka directly and he may be able to set up work in Uganda. Contact through the Web site or Facebook.

tags : ambulance alternative, bike ambulances, Chris Ategeka, emergency vehicle, healthcare, public health solutions, Uganda

Rob Goodier

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