Report from the Field #2: David Branigan in Uganda

News released on: 
Mar 29th, 2013

Despite the prevailing poverty in Amuru, I’ve noticed quite a few changes and improvements in development and well being since my last visit in 2011. Two years ago, malaria was the number one killer disease, but due to various interventions, and the activity of the Amuru Village Health Workers (VHWs), its impact has been reduced. Tuberculosis is also being treated effectively, malnutrition seems to be reducing, and deliveries at the Health Center are increasing. Peace is also on the rise, though Amuru is still dealing with intense disputes over land. David Branigan and the Village Health Workers with their bikes from BNB

Another significant change in Amuru is that there are about 400 high-quality mountain bikes from the 2011 BNB shipment, a professional bike workshop, six decentralized workstations and trained bike mechanics. The increased transportation from these bikes appears to be a contributing factor to the positive changes in the health of people in Amuru. In a place where households are generally far apart the bicycles have significantly increased the transportation capacity of the VHWs. Before the bikes, the VHWs would only be able to visit three to four households in a day by walking, but with the bicycles the VHWs are reporting the ability to visit 10 or more households in a day. VHWs with bikes are able to attend more meetings and community health activities and are able to ride their bikes to the Health Center to make a follow-up visit, something that was nearly impossible before.

We definitely have more work to do in Amuru Sub-county regarding decentralized access and supply of spare parts and tools, as well as the training of additional bike mechanics; but what is currently in place now is truly amazing. In one session with the mechanics, I demonstrated how to overhaul and maintain a Sturmey Archer three-speed hub, and in record time, one of the mechanics re-assembled the complex hub with precision, as if he'd done it many times before.  In another session working on bikes, I observed the mechanics adjusting limit screws and cable tension on derailleurs like seasoned professional bike mechanics. The level of mountain bike mechanics knowledge in Amuru is due to the excellent work of BNB fieldworker Omar Bhimji, Project Coordinator Mark Odoch, and the Amuru Village Health Workers' intense motivation for this project.Bike mechanics in Uganda finish a rear derailleur repair on a bike shipped from BNB.

Since arriving in Amuru I have attended six meetings in the six parishes on six different days. I also met with the trained bike mechanics, the leadership of Lacor Health Center in Amuru and the leadership of Lacor Hospital in Gulu. My understanding of the project and its core stakeholders has greatly deepened, and together we have reached a collective vision of how to strategically move this project forward.

In 2013, BNB will be shipping our second container to the Amuru Village Health Worker Mobility Project, and through this container we will supply the remaining VHWs in Amuru with bikes, replenish the supply of spare parts, maintain a reserve of bikes for the project, and sell some bikes to the community. The bike sales will generate funds to build-up the bike repair infrastructure throughout the Sub-county and to stock additional spare parts, establishing the material conditions for long-term sustainability of the bikes as a transportation system for rural health care delivery in Amuru Sub-county.

I'm now in Kampala, and am preparing to fly back to Boston tomorrow. I look forward to sharing more with you about the project when I return. It would be great to see you at the BNB Open House at the Hub on Saturday April 6th where I will tell you more about the project in Amuru. And please consider joining us on Sunday April 7th for the container loading to BiciTec in Guatemala!

- David Branigan, International Programs Director, Bikes Not Bombs