The cost of life: Challenges in transport

The team at Medic Mobile is sitting under a tree at a family shamba (farm), listening to the story of how families in Kilifi struggle to access healthcare.  Recently, Fatima, who is 24, recognized that her 3 year old son, Mohammed, was not recovering from pneumonia.  He had returned from a visit to the Ganze clinic the week before with medicine for pneumonia, but he had not responded to the treatment.  Within a few hours, his condition continued to go downhill, and Fatima decided to take him back to the clinic.

At the clinic, the nurses immediately referred him to the central hospital, given his critical condition.  There are no emergency vehicles at the clinic and so Fatima needed to find the funds to pay for a trip into town.  Her family own about 20 acres of land, and are small-scale farmers.  They have very limited access to funds, and did not have the $10 on hand to pay for transport.  Fatima only option was to seek assistance from anyone willing to help. Her closest option was her nearest neighbour. Luckily, he agreed to lend them the transport fees, at an interest rate of 10% per week.  For a family that only earns $10 per month, this interest rate was too high, but the choice for Fatima was simple – the life of her child or refusing the loan.  She chose the life of Mohammed, and he is now thriving and growing well.  He had contracted a severe case of malaria, and arrived to the hospital just in time.

It is stories like these that directly inspire our goals for emergency transfer work.  We recognize that it may take some time for Kenya as a country to build up an efficient and sustainable emergency response system, but it is critical for rural clinics to create innovative solutions to emergency transfers.  It is our vision that an SMS-based transfer system would be created that would make it possible for patients to arrive in time for care, recognize warning signs more quickly for referral, and that a financial system would be designed to help mothers like Fatima receive support when they most need it.

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