Robin Erinesy is helping to save lives in his community as part of the Emergency Transport Scheme (ETS) in Madagascar. He operates this bicycle ambulance to help deliver patients to medical professionals.

Because the roads are poorly maintained and the terrain is difficult to navigate by motor vehicle, transportation is often expensive if accessible at all. Transaid enables those living in rural communities to reach health services when they are in need. They work with partners to strengthen emergency transport systems, provide access to appropriate forms of transport and also help community health workers reach the families who need them. 

Transaid has been working in this area of Madagascar for more than 20 years. Transaid's emergency transport system includes ox cart ambulances, hand carried litters, bicycle ambulances, and canoe ambulances. They have also equipped thousands of volunteer health workers with bicycles to help with transportation. Bikes for the World delivers donated bicycles to community bike shops known as eBoxes to help financially support some of the health initiatives established through Transaid.

Photo Robin Hammond/Panos

‚ÄčRobin Erinesy is very familiar with transportation issues in his community. This is one of the reasons he got involved in the ETS.

Ten years ago Robin fell gravely ill. His family called the hospital to request an ambulance. The hospital refused to send help.They were able to flag down a passing car who transported Robin and two other family members to the hospital. That trip cost Robin's family $9. This was one month's salary for his family.

Robin recovered but he was very angry about the situation. "They demanded a lot of money to help someone who was very sick," said Robin. This is typical, given there is no other option; drivers can charge any amount they want.

Five years later Robin was operating a bicycle ambulance, "I do it to help my community."

Several years ago Robin was called into action when Baby Mahazomaro was in distress. Mahazomaro was only 18 days old when he experienced trouble breathing. Robin transported him to the local clinic, but they were not equipped to treat him there.

Robin then took him to the hospital in the bicycle ambulance and they were able to treat and save baby Mahazomaro. When time means the difference between life and death, a bicycle can save lives. Mom and Dad had given up hope, but thanks to Robin and his bicycle ambulance Mahazomaro is now healthy and doing well.

By being part of the ETS, Robin and his family are also automatically enrolled in the community health insurance system. He pays 10 cents a month and the insurance covers ambulance service free and reduced cost on medicines for his entire family.