Riders for Health is a social enterprise established 25 years ago to address one of the greatest challenges facing health workers in sub-Saharan Africa: a lack of reliable transport preventing health care from reaching remote communities. We manage transport in harsh conditions with little infrastructure, connecting vital health care with rural areas hitherto unreachable except on foot.
The key barriers are infrastructure and population distribution. Transportation infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is non-existent in places; rural Africa has just 34% road access and those roads that do exist are generally in poor condition. Population distribution is equally problematic – 40-60% of people in developing countries live more than eight kilometers away from a health facility, while 528 million in sub-Saharan Africa live rurally. These contextual challenges represent a barrier to health care that can be the difference between life and death.
Millions are spent every year on drugs and technologies for Africa, but a crucial factor is neglected: ensuring their reliable delivery. Health vehicles are abandoned in various states of disrepair, often needing just a single, inexpensive part to get them moving again. Without transportation, and its regular, planned maintenance, a huge portion of the millions poured into health care in Africa is, simply, wasted.
Once transport and maintenance become a visible part of health systems, connecting hospitals and health centers to communities, investment across the board is maximized. Without the risk that interventions will not reach where they are supposed to, organizations across development will benefit.