By David Tenenbaum
KAMPALA, Uganda – A nonprofit group in Uganda has issued another loan for a motorcycle-taxi that will also offer free transport for health care workers.
Motorcycle taxis are the common form of transportation in rural Uganda, and the recipient, Moses Tindyebwa, has already begun driving for hire.
But for three days a month, he will ferry health care workers to remote Ugandan villages on Bugala Island in Lake Victoria. These short but essential trips, organized by Health Access Connect (HAC), deliver government health workers to villages that, with HAC’s help, now have a health facility.
By helping organize monthly clinics and lending to motorcycle buyers who are obligated for 18 months to transport health care workers, HAC “bridges the last few miles,” says Kevin Gibbons, 37, who received a master of science in conservation biology and sustainable development at University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2012.
After 18 months, assuming that Mr. Tindyebwa pays the loan as six of his predecessors have done, he will own the motorcycle. If he then he continues driving health workers, he will be paid.
HAC and its peculiar hybrid model of microfinance and healthcare delivery are the brainchild of Gibbons and Carolyne Ariokot, a Ugandan citizen who works at KCB Bank in Kampala.
The roots of the idea were planted during Gibbons’s graduate work at UW–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In 2008, Gibbons studied fisheries governance in Lake Victoria fishing communities.
“I was asking questions about environmental governance, migration, and whether people had enough to eat, and my interviewees would tell me, ‘You come here and build a hospital,’ and they could point to their neighbors’ houses and tell me so-and-so died of HIV three weeks ago, and this person died two months ago. I thought, ‘But healthcare is just three miles away! There’s got to be a way to fix this problem.’”
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