Listen to Bill Gates, there’s no time to lose

Listen to Bill Gates, there's no time to lose
20th August 2020 – A couple of days ago, Bill Gates, the legendary founder of Microsoft, posted a blog warning the world not to forget about malaria.

“Mosquitoes don’t practice social distancing. They don’t wear masks, either,” he wrote. “As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, it’s important to remember that the world’s deadliest animal hasn’t taken a break during this pandemic.”

It was a powerful reminder to me to do more to help worthy organisations. A few weeks ago, I posted a LinkedIn blog about the importance of supporting charities through this difficult time, and warning that we must not neglect the important causes just because of our own struggles. So I would like to take a few moments of your time to tell you about a charity that is dear to my heart: Transaid.

In Africa, where Transaid has been extremely active for many years, there have been 1m reported COVID-19 cases. There are fears the true figures may be significantly higher.

I spoke to Florence at Transaid about the impact of the pandemic on their work. She told me that Transaid’s UK office remains closed but that despite the physical distance between teams, they are still actively solving transport challenges around the world.

The Transaid team has been hard at work in rural Zambia to ensure communities can access critical information about COVID-19, including details on how to protect themselves. It has received funding from the FIA Foundation to ramp up its MAMaZ Against Malaria at Scale programme. This is a network of community health volunteers, bicycle ambulances and volunteer riders. Originally, this was set up to transport patients with suspected severe malaria to a hospital but the scheme is now also helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 through raising awareness, community radio, establishing hand washing stations and more. Transaid’s experience tackling other diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have helped it to quickly and effectively set up its own tracking and tracing technologies.

But there is more work to be done. Many countries in Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan region, do not have the healthcare resources to deal with this new crisis. In Uganda for example, there are fewer than 60 ICU beds for a population of 44m people. This prompted Uganda to shut its border early – even before the UK went into lockdown. The country has been largely successful in controlling the disease but cross border transportation must continue. This means that truck drivers have been branded as disease carriers by the Uganda media.

Drivers have had their rest stops closed or moved, have been banned from some restaurants, and are no longer allowed to travel with a second driver in the cab. Drivers are driving longer distances without stopping, which has a road safety impact. Transaid is working with truck drivers to ensure they have the information and PPE they need to do their vital work safely. It is aiming to reach more than 4,500 truck drivers over the next few months, giving them access to water, masks, soap, and the information they need to keep themselves safe.

Even as we continue to fight COVID-19 in this country, we must not forget the plight of other nations. BigChange will be supporting Transaid through our Motivational Mondays initiative later this year. I’ll share more details of our collaboration closer to the date. In the meantime, click here to find out more about Transaid’s vital work, or to donate

Today we celebrate International Day of Medical Transporters