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Ensuring Safe Births amid a Disaster: Community Volunteer uses Motorcycle Ambulance to Save Lives of Mothers

Meet Davis Mukimba, a Community Volunteer with UNFPA/ACORD who also doubles as a Motorcycle Ambulance rider at Bukigai Health Centre III in Buduuda district, on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda.

Recently, the district suffered devastating landslides that led to loss of lives, destroyed homes and displaced people.

The mudslides washed away roads and bridges making it difficult for people to access medical services. The mountainous terrain made it particularly difficult for pregnant women.

Davis visits the affected communities to sensitize them about observing COVID-19 standard operating procedures - washing hands, keeping a social distance, and wearing a mask.  Additionally, he facilitates the formation and mentoring of women and youth groups, mobilizes community members to participate in Health Camps, and conducts community dialogue meetings to discuss sexual reproductive health (SRH) and prevention of gender-based violence (GBV). Davis also conducts mapping of pregnant women in the community, and ensures to make referrals for antenatal care.

Buduuda District Local Government owns the Motorcycle Ambulance.  For lack of funds to sustain a full-time paid rider, Davis volunteers his services free-of-charge.

“As a Motorcycle Ambulance rider, I am called by community members at any time, sometimes in the middle of the night to pick up pregnant women who are in labor. It is very difficult navigating the mountainous terrains with a woman experiencing labor pains,” said Davis.

On average, Davis said that he refers up to 15 mothers a month, both inward referrals (from the community to the Health Centre III), and onward referrals from the Health Centre III to Buduuda Hospital.

Davis fondly talks about some of the most memorable experiences in his community service, ensuring that women deliver safely.


Davis Mukimba, a Community Volunteer and Sr. Caroline Kimono, a midwife at Bukigai
Health Center III in Buduuda district help a mother out of the motorcycle ambulance.
 

“One time, at about 8:00 p.m. I had just sat down after a long day of work to enjoy a meal that was prepared by my wife when I received a call to go and pick up a pregnant mother with complications from Bukigai Health Center III to Buduuda Hospital,” Davis narrates.  “Along the way the light of the motorcycle gave way. I improvised with a torch as the light all the way to the hospital - a distance of 7KM where she received assistance to deliver safely.”

In a humanitarian crisis like that of Buduuda, families, and communities break down, making young women and girls most vulnerable. Women and adolescent girls face threats as a result of challenges in accessing health and other services that they usually need. 

As health centers and other key infrastructure may be destroyed, overcrowded, or inaccessible, pregnant women, in particular, fear for their health and that of their unborn babies and wonder if they will deliver safely, as health centers and other key infrastructure may be destroyed, overcrowded, or inaccessible.

In 2020, floods and landslides affected 44,992 people in the districts of Bundibugyo in Western Uganda, Sironko, and Buduuda in Eastern Uganda, causing displacement of over 18,000 individuals.

UNFPA supports the work of community volunteers like Davis to ensure that pregnant women give birth safely, with the support of a professional health worker.

In 2020, with funding from the UNFPA Emergency Fund, a total of 6,321 pregnant mothers in the three affected districts were mapped and referred to health facilities for antenatal services, of which 3,173 gave birth with the support of a professional health worker

 

Compiled by Jimmy Dombo, UNFPA Uganda.