Innovative Logistics in Extreme Conditions: Lessons from Gambia

Managing logistics in developing countries presents real challenges—from poor roads and unreliable vehicles to less than ideal warehousing options. When public health is at stake, the logistics issues are even more worrisome.

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Manyo Gibba, a health worker in Gambia in West Africa, recalls how she used to care for the 20,000 people in the 14 villages assigned to her. To get to the furthest village 20 kilometers away would take a full day on foot. “Many of the communities would not see me for a month or more,” she says.

A social enterprise called Riders for Health has transformed her work day. The organization provided her with a reliable motorcycle, taught her safe riding techniques, and showed her how to perform routine preventative maintenance. Now, she says, “My patients see me at least once a week.”

Riders for Health is a mid-sized non-profit organization based in the United Kingdom and operating in seven African nations. The organization focuses on fleet management of motorcycles and vehicles used to deliver health products and services in rural areas. The cornerstone of Riders’ approach is its “zero breakdown” technique. The approach has three elements: multifaceted rider/driver training; regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance; and local servicing of the vehicles. The overall objective is to operate fleets at the lowest possible cost for the longest possible time, even in difficult conditions.

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