× Digital News Videos Health & Science Opinion Education Columnists Lifestyle Cartoons Moi Cabinets Kibaki Cabinets Arts & Culture Gender Podcasts E-Paper Tributes Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise VAS E-Learning Digger Classified Jobs Games Crosswords Sudoku The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS
×
VAS

Free ambulance helps save mothers and babies in lockdown

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Reuters | July 12th 2020

As soon as Kenya introduced a coronavirus curfew, Dr Jemimah Kariuki, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Nairobi’s Kenyatta Hospital, started seeing more death and complications. 

“Every time I went to the hospital it was fewer numbers but more complications...and when women died alone in childbirth, I was like ‘in 2020?’ You are dying? Alone?,” she said.

Mothers in labour and their babies die more frequently during disease outbreaks in Africa. Women are either too afraid of infection to give birth in hospitals, or drivers are too afraid to take them if police are enforcing movement restrictions. 

That means disruptions to health systems caused by Covid-19 could result in an additional 1.1 million additional child deaths and 56,700 maternal deaths in low and middle-income countries, a study by Johns Hopkins researchers showed.

In 2014, amid Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak, the number of women delivering babies at health facilities plunged by 30 per cent, a study by the United Nations Population Fund found. That year, Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality ratio rose 3.5 per cent, World Health Organisation data shows.

In the first 10 days of neighboring Uganda’s coronavirus lockdown, the lack of transportation killed seven women and two babies, a rights group said.

Kariuki was determined not to let that happen. Police had already beaten a motorobike driver to death after he transported a woman in labour to hospital after curfew and she knew Kenya, like most African nations, had no public ambulance services. 

So she started Wheels for Life, a free ambulance service for mothers in labour after dark. The program has received more than 5,000 calls and delivered around 600 babies.

Patients call ‘1196.’ A worker at a call centre checks if it is an emergency. If not, they send a taxi with an overnight movement pass. If it is, the call goes to Rescue.co, a subscription-based Uber service for ambulances that runs a dispatch center.

One such call was from Christine Wanjiru, whose waters broke at midnight. She was stunned when an ambulance appeared within five minutes.

“I didn’t expect that,” Wanjiru said. “I was so happy.”

Wheels for Life is free. Public partners and corporate donors are covering costs.

Now Dr Kariuki is hoping it might become permanent.

“We’re getting calls from all over the country...we’re even getting calls during the day,” Kariuki said. “Women don’t need to stress about how they are going to get to the hospital.”

A permanent ambulance service could save more lives. About 362 Kenyan women per 100,000 die in childbirth even when there is no pandemic, according to the health ministry.

“Curfew is only part of the problem,” she said.

Share this story
Popular TV preacher Cerullo dies
On July 9, a message posted on his Facebook page revealed that not all was well and the end was nigh for the preacher.
Opening Ceremony: Kenya takes her pride of place as 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games begin
Team Kenya Paralympics strolled majestically into the Tokyo Olympic Stadium led by captain Rodgers Kiprop and Powerlifter Hellen Wawira for the Openin

.
RECOMMENDED NEWS

.
OPEN JOB VACANCIES IN KENYA

;