MIT Startup Moves to Tanzania to Pursue Motorcycle Ambulance Attachment

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For rural villages in Tanzania, vehicle access to medical care facilities is unreliable and slow.

Due to high costs and poor road conditions, traditional ambulances are not viable modes of transportation. The vehicles that are available, motorcycles and dirt bikes, typically aren’t suitable for medical transportation.

All these factors combined become problematic in an acute medical situation.

The team at the Okoa Project is taking the available vehicles in rural Africa and crafting an ambulance attachment that can fit on any motorcycle used in the area.

The project spawned from a class at MIT and has grown exponentially since.

The Okoa Project team recently returned from a trip to Tanzania and will move there permanently in September to continue to develop their product.

Co-founder Emily Young said the group is looking to solve the issue of the ‘last mile of healthcare,’ a common problem across the world. More than a billion people worldwide lack proper access to healthcare due to distance, and the same can be said in Tanzania.

“These people are so far from medical clinics that NGO’s and medical organizations don’t target them when they look at providing access,” Young said.

The motorcycle attachment is covered by a steel frame and a fitted tarp, has two seats for passengers to sit aside the patient, and a removable stretcher.

The ambulance attachment has dual shock suspension on both wheels and a dynamic attachment mechanism that allows it to hook onto the back of any motorcycle.

Young said it costs $500 to produce the ambulance attachment and can be locally manufactured in Tanzania.

There are other motorcycle ambulances on the market right now, Young said, but they have exorbitant costs upwards of $6,000 and are often too wide for rural roads. The Okoa Project team see their product as affordable and applicable across the world, for any community in need of efficient access to healthcare.

“This product is very applicable elsewhere,” Young said, naming Nepal, Afghanistan, and other locations across sub-Saharan Africa as potential opportunities for expansion.

The group is still in the product validation phase and continue to test the ambulance attachment before they move to Tanzania in the fall.

In the coming months, The Okoa Project is looking for additional funding to help expand their team and are open to connecting with other organizations for advice or mentorship.

To contact the organization, email moto-amb@mit.edu and check out their website: https://www.theokoaproject.com/.

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