F.K. Day, president of World Bicycle Relief, said: “With this facility, we are able to expand our geographic coverage beyond the area around the capital of Lusaka. We are well on our way to training 400 field mechanics throughout the country, and are currently delivering between 300 and 500 bicycles per week.”
The $2.9m programme will provide over 20,000 bicycles to volunteer, community-based HIV/AIDS care givers and disease prevention educators in Zambia in the next 12 months. It also includes training of youth and adults in bicycle maintenance and life skills, and improvements to the local bicycle technologies. The bicycles will be assembled in eight locations across the country.
Day said he was encouraged by President Bush’s recent request for $30bn to combat HIV/AIDS, and believes bicycles can be a key component in the battle against the disease.
“Simple, sustainable mobility in the form of bicycles is an essential tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Day.
“There is a strong link between disease and poverty â€“ bicycles are a way to break that link by providing access to healthcare, education and economic development opportunities.”
The bikes themselves, which cost $109 each, are purpose-built and culturally appropriate. World Bicycle Relief has partnered with RAPIDS, a USAID-funded consortium of six relief organizations, to provide the bikes to home-based, community volunteers caring for their neighbours affected by HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children.
These caregivers use the bicycles to increase their reach fourfold: while walking, they might cover two and a half miles per hour; by bicycle they are able to go 10 miles. te to their families and communities.
World Bicycle Relief has also launched a pilot program to extend its scope to include micro-loans for bicycles in Zambia and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, Day said, he is working with suppliers to increase the quality and durability of the bicycles available.