The challenge of highway rescue in Kenya
By Lilian Kaivilu
Gerald Kamotho is a bodaboda rider at Kikopey area in Nakuru County. He has worked here since 2017. The 33-year-old’s main job here is to ferry passengers from the highway bus stage to their various destinations.
But on this very spot, Kamotho quickly turns into a first aider, trying to rescue people trapped in road accidents along the busy highway. Although this is not a recorded accident blackspot in the country, Kamotho says he has witnessed numerous road crashes here.
Earlier this year, Earlier this year, Kamotho witnessed an accident that involved a pedestrian and a trailer. “The man was hit by the trailer right here before the vehicle drove on,” he says. Kamotho would then take the risk of taking the injured man to a health centre in Gilgil. Since I witnessed the entire situation, I took it upon myself to rush the rider to the nearest hospital aboard my bodaboda,” he says.
Luckily, upon arrival at the hospital, the injured man was picked up by a neighbour, and Kamotho moved on with his business.
This is just one of the numerous cases that Kamotho and his colleagues at the Kikopey area have had to deal with along the highway. With no protection or first aid training, the riders swing into action whenever road crashes occur. But Joseph Lelo, the chief medical officer at Amref Flying Doctors terms lack of preparedness and proper prevention as the main causes of deaths on the highways. “We do not have an efficient emergency medical service so most of it is based on well-wishers who do that critical one-hour rescue after the accident. This is the golden hour of survival,” says Lelo.
Due to poor emergency response, may road accident victims may not see a doctor within the recommended 20 minutes to on-hour period after the accident has occurred. He adds: “At this point, the patients are most probably trapped in a car within that one hour. As a result, we lose a lot of patients and there is a lot of suffering as a result of poor preparations to respond to emergencies.”
Location of health facilities along the highways is a major challenge to the rescue teams in the case of accidents. Kamotho, for instance, has two options whenever an accident occurs; either to take the victims to the nearby government hospital in Gilgil, about 20 minutes away, or the St Mary’s Hospital, about the same distance. Dr Lelo emphasises on the need to improve the hospitals along the highway to handle such emergencies.