Kenyan doctor Jemimah Kariuki, 28, has been awarded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Global Health, in recognition of her contribution to advancing maternal health.
As there are no public ambulances in Kenya, Kariuki has organized an ambulance service dedicated solely to pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the situation, many women started to become too afraid to give birth in hospitals and, with the introduction of a coronavirus curfew in Kenya, many drivers were too afraid to drive mothers in labour to the hospital as police were enforcing movement restrictions.
“It pained my heart that we could lose someone due to child birth in this day and era and it really just made me so sad,” Kariuki, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Nairobi’s Kenyatta Hospital, said. “Right now, consequently going to the ward, I would see mothers who had again delivered at home, lost their children and come with extensive tears and I needed to do something. I really just needed to do something.”
With all this in mind, Kariuki decided to create Wheels for Life with the help of other doctors and paramedics. Wheels for Life is a free ambulance service for mothers in labor at night, with costs covered by public partners and corporate donors.
In June last year, the program had already received over 5,000 calls and delivered around 600 babies.
“In the beginning it was not an organization in my head. I think it was just ‘how can I help?’,” Kariuki said.