Ambulance Service for Poor Helps Residents of Nairobi’s Largest Slum

A community health service in Africa’s largest urban slum is helping poor people get affordable emergency services during the COVID pandemic.

The Kibera community emergency response team in Nairobi is offering a $1 monthly fee for access to emergency services, including an ambulance.

Poor people — like those living in Nairobi’s Kibera slum — find it difficult to access emergency health care.

Even where public services such as clinics and hospitals are provided within slums, the high cost effectively bars most Kibera residents from calling an ambulance.

It’s a challenge Moses Omondi — who was born and brought up in Kibera slum — has undertaken.

He formed a community emergency response team that provides services to slum residents for a fee of $1 a month, including ambulance transport to the hospitals.

“If you have an ambulance, you can easily access a hospital because no hospital should deny you services when you have been taken there by an ambulance, Moses Omondi said. “It means it’s an emergency case that needs emergency attention.”

Annet Okumu is one of about 300 subscribers to the ambulance service. She said she received potentially lifesaving care inside an ambulance after an accident last year.

“The condition I was in wasn’t that good,” Okumu said. “I was really having a very bad headache, I was bleeding. So maybe I could have overbled if I couldn’t have gotten the first aid service.”

Non-profit groups and other benefactors support the service. So far, there is one ambulance for an estimated 250,000 residents in the slum. Officials hope to increase the number to five.

Ambulance services in Kenya ordinarily cost up to $400 depending on the needs of a patient, such as a ventilator and the distance involved.

Officials say arrangements that provide public access to affordable emergency services are especially important during the COVID-19 era. Judith Okech is the head of the Ambulex Kenya service.

“It’s a service people are acknowledging that they very much need, and you’ll realize that people living within such settings, some of them have never called for an ambulance because they know that if you call for an ambulance it’s never going to get there, or you’ll be asked for a lot of money that they are not able to afford,” Judith said.

Residents say the community service emergency response team offers hope they will have better access to the health care they need.

Source: Voice of America

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