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Uganda: Boat ambulance saving islanders

Uganda   -  
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A patient is carried into the boat ambulance, Boat ambulance at Bwama Health Center III on Lake Bunyonyi.

A call for a medical emergency. It would take hours for a canoe to reach the patient, but since this speed boat ambulance was acquired, the medics access the patients in minutes.

Melon Ninsiima fell ill in the morning and like for many other pregnant women on the Islands, accessing a hospital is difficult and expensive.

“i had failed to get transport but when i called them , the midwife here at Bwama, they arranged means to come and pick me” explains an expectant mother. 

From the farthest island, a patient needs at least two hours on a 15-horsepower engine boat to arrive at the health facility.

“That time has been cut short almost ten times, now it takes just a few minutes for a patient to come and seek medical treatment in time. And, this health center serves seven sub-counties around Kabale district”. 

The 300-horsepower engine boat ambulance docks at the Bwama Health Center III, on one of Lake Bunyonyi’s 29 islands

On a given day, 50 patients can be attended to from here.

“It is a matter of giving us a call at the health facility and we are able to pick them from wherever they are.”

According to the World Health Organization, in Uganda, the maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births is 284.

But there is a question of sustainability for this costly service run by the government.

Byakatonda Alex is the communications officer of the kabale ldistrict local government :

“The Ministry of Defense is going to be handling it for the next two years, and there after it will be left entirely to the Ministry of Health and the fuel and its maintenance and everything is being done by the Ministry of Health”

With this boat ambulance, the cases of giving birth at home or in transit are going down. The district says they need six more such boats to accommodate the Islanders in need.

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