“We go!” Joshua Tusubira waves at me impatiently, swinging his leg over his motorcycle and revving up the engine. “A mama called from the deep, deep village!”
Within moments of receiving the phone call, Tusubira has connected his motorcycle to the mobile stretcher stationed at the health center, whipping his fingers at the final metal nut to spin it into place. The mobile stretcher is a bright red contraption on two wheels: a larger, more serious version of the child bike trailers that fitness-conscious parents tow in suburban America.
I hop on a second motorcycle, and soon we’re hurtling down dirt roads, swerving to avoid the ditches carved out by the torrential downpours of the rainy season and sending clouds of dust billowing behind us. Villagers turn their heads at Tusubira and the strange apparatus he’s pulling. The parish residents break into incredulous smiles or stare gape-jawed; schoolchildren scream and chase after Joshua for as long as they can.
Tusubira is a boda boda man—a motorcycle taxi driver—in rural Isingiro District, southwestern Uganda. He’s not just any motorcycle taxi driver, though: He is the head motorcycle ambulance driver of the United Nations Millennium Villages Project’s new emergency referral system for pregnant women and children under five in Ruhiira Parish.