In the Press

New devices like motorcycle ambulances help poor

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In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, designer Mike Norman poses for photographs on one of his eRanger motorcycle ambulances at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London
A bit of creativity never hurts, especially when it comes to solving health problems in developing countries. Instead of the usual donated medicines and health equipment, some experts are inventing new products for the poor.
That was the idea behind the eRanger, a motorcycle ambulance with a sidecar stretcher capable of driving through the African bush terrain. "The donated ambulances (from the West) won't do 100 yards in Africa," said Mike Norman, a British engineer who designed the motorcycle ambulance.
So far, Guinea, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa have bought the ambulances, which sell for about $6,200. Last year, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and others donated $250,000 to UNICEF in Southern Sudan specifically to buy the vehicles.
Norman says health officials have focused on using them to get pregnant women to health clinics to deliver their babies. Since the motorcycle ambulances were introduced in one district of Malawi several years ago, death rates among mothers have dropped 60 percent.