In Canada, owning a bicycle is as common as owning a pair of jeans. But in Malawi, a bike is a rare possession. In a country where almost a third of the population is undernourished, a daily meal - not a bike - is top priority. Yet in some cases, having a bike can mean the difference between life and death. For example, expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies get medical help faster when transported by bicycle ambulances - bikes outfitted with stretchers. This means that communities with just one bike see their infant mortality rate drop. About 85 per cent of Malawi’s people live in rural areas. Up to five times as many HIV and AIDS patients are taken to doctors by bike compared to those who get there on foot.
This dramatic reality compelled university and college students across Canada to raise funds for Uniterra’s Bike for AIDS campaign. With the support of WUSC in Malawi, donations help community organizations distribute the bicycles and train volunteers in community building, care and support of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Since the project started in September 2005, WUSC’s Local Committees – student volunteers - and WUSC partner, Cap AIDS have contributed their efforts to successful outcomes:
- 220 bicycles purchased and distributed
- 171 bicycle-ambulances purchased and distributed to community organization
- 109 community-based organizations putting these bicycles to use
- More than 218,000 people affected by HIV and AIDS who benefit from the bicycles
“The bike ambulances have reduced the burden of carrying the sick patients on their backs to the hospitals,” says Safari Mbewe, from The Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (MANET+).
Click here to make a donation to Bike for AIDS.