I saw this photo at the Dawn website and found myself with mixed feelings. On one hand, the picture of a young boy being taken to the hospital on a ‘thela’ was deeply troubling. Even in a city with so many public and private ambulance services, this poor family still did not have affordable access to a comfortable and safe ride to the hispital. One can only imagine the lack of such a facilities in rural areas.
But at the same time, I also thought this was an opportunity to create a human-powered ambulance that at least provided service in areas where regular ambulances were hard to locate. I am sure with local ingenuity and some more advanced mechanical research at Pakistani univeristies, an affordable, comfortable, and safe ambulatory vehicle could be designed for work in rural areas. Perhaps it could even be financed, and integrated into low-income or micro-credit eco-system.
Specifically I was reminded of a demonstration by a group of students at MIT a few months ago that had specifically worked in African developing countries to design a bicycle ambulance that would provide a more comfortable ride to pregnant women, elderly, and non-emergency patients to hospitals and clinics (click on picture to enlarge). They had not only used local parts to design a safe and relatively comfortable, yet affordable, transport for patients, but had also done work in understanding the economics of creating local ambulance services.
According to the WHO and UNICEF in 2000, sub-sararan africa had a 1% maternal mortality rate. I am not sure what the rate of maternal mortality is, especially in rural Pakistan, but I would guess at least some of those deaths could be prevented if women had access to transportation to clinics and hospitals. I am just thinking if something like this could also have been helpful in the case of disaster relief, such as the during the earthquake in the Kashmir region?
I think if a group, non-profit organization, or a university student group was to take leadership in this, interesting results could be obtained that would pertain not just to the creation of bicycle ambulances, but also better technology for bicycles for the disabled (such as hand cycles), wheelchairs, and other similar of machines. It is not unthinkable that we could also create our own version of wheelchairs that could climb stairs, or at least bicycles that provided safety for children when being driven with kids on it. There is a tremendous room for technical innovation – it just needs a little push.
Are there people here willing to join me in creating a competition for Pakistani univeristy students to create such technologies?