Amuru Village Health Team

Amuru, Northern Uganda

Village Health Team membersA road sign warning of land minesPeople waiting for health services at the Amuru Health CenterA Village Health Worker utilizing a bicycle for more efficient travelBikes Not Bombs is partnering with the Amuru Sub-county Village Health Team, a group of about 550 volunteer Village Health Workers, to implement a Health Worker Mobility Project in Amuru, Northern Uganda. This project provides bicycles, repair workshops, mechanics training and project management skills to the health workers, and develops their capacity to own and manage the project long-term. The bikes form a transportation system for rural health service delivery, improving the mobility of the health workers and helping them to access patients in rural villages more efficiently and more frequently. This project is also assisting efforts to rebuild communities after 20 years of war.

From 1986 to 2007, Northern Uganda was gripped in a civil war fought predominantly by the Lords Resistance Army against the government of Uganda; however, the real victims of this war were the people of Northern Uganda. Over 100,000 people were killed and over 30,000 children were abducted and used as soldiers or sex slaves. By 1996, 2 million people, 95% of the population, were forced by the government into Internally Displaced Peoples' camps with overcrowded conditions and without adequate sanitation or water. During this time in the camps, people were unable to farm and subsisted solely on United Nations food distribution. In 2007, the Lords Resistance Army withdrew from Uganda across the border into South Sudan and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the people of Northern Uganda returned to their villages after 10 years of displacement.

Since the war, health statistics reflecting the daily reality in Northern Uganda, have been dire. 60 out of every 10,000 women die in childbirth in Northern Uganda every year, vs.1 out of every 10,000 in the US. The doctor-to-patient ratio in Northern Uganda is 1 to 50,650, vs. 1 to 18,600 for all of Uganda. The role that the Village Health Workers take on in providing access to health services in rural areas is attempting to fill this gap in the health infrastructure, and is routinely saving lives. The health workers are supported by a single health center in Amuru, and for most people in rural areas, the Village Health Workers constitute their sole access to health services.

Riding a bike is about 4-times more efficient that walking, and the high majority of Village Health Workers previously walked when providing health services to patients in rural areas. Bicycles have improved the overall outreach effort by Village Health Workers of monitoring, supporting and responding to the health of people in rural Amuru and have increased the speed of their response time in the case of emergencies. In areas with an absence of motorized transportation, bicycle ambulances will be utilized to help transport patients to the health center.

Integral to this partnership is the Bikes Not Bombs relationship with St. Mary's Hospital Lacor the institutional sponsor of this project, connecting Bikes Not Bombs with the Village Health Workers, and providing the framework for potential project expansion to other areas of Northern Uganda. The focus of St. Mary's Hospital Lacor is: "Fighting Poverty through Health - Diseases are not only caused by poverty, but are themselves a major cause of poverty. Access to affordable, quality health care is crucial to breaking the vicious circle of poverty leading to poor health and vice versa. Lacor Hospital contributes to social development by offering accessible quality medical assistance."

Above, this 12 minute video about the Amuru Village Health Worker Project was made by David Branigan, International Programs Director at Bikes Not Bombs.