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Motorbikes Can Help Save Lives

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Riding motorbikes is a great leveller. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, or where you're from, motorbikes really bond people.

But they do more than that. They can also save lives. It's no secret that I love mucking about on bikes; I work with a UK charity called Riders for Health (RFH) and when I heard they needed a hand taking a bike to a health worker in a remote African village - I was more than happy to help.

Riders for Health is a brilliant organisation providing off-road motorcycles for health workers all over rural Zambia. Thousands of people wouldn't get healthcare if it wasn't for them.

With money raised by The Supporters Club, BT Sport's charitable initiative, nearly 200,000 additional people living in remote areas of Zambia will now get access to health care.

It's a simple concept but it works. Riders for Health give 100cc Yamaha bikes to health workers who would otherwise spend hours walking in the midday sun to treat people in rural areas. Sometimes they have to trek so far that the cold box of vaccinations they're carrying is ruined when they arrive. It's such a waste and it impacts people's lives.

Riders for Health really make a difference. They train health workers how to ride and look after their bikes, so that they last a good five years or 80,000km. They also keep them serviced. These bikes are really robust. You see people delivering pizzas on these bikes all over the UK. These are the kind of bikes people have fun on at the weekend. But these bikes can also save lives. They'll handle all terrains and they can get medics to treat people quickly and you can't argue with that.

I was delivering the bike to a health worker called Twambo, a 27-year-old who lives in a town called Kalomo, 126km north of Livingstone, in Zambia.

At the RFH HQ in Livingstone I'm given some road safety tips like, what to do if an elephant steps out in front of you. I think an emergency stop is the answer, but it's ok if it's a giraffe as you can go straight underneath them.

As I headed off on a three day journey through the bush to my destination, where I was told I'd probably come across rhinos, elephants and crocodiles, I wondered: 'What could possibly go wrong'?

I'd already been told by the bloke who runs a centre for dangerous crocodiles that I should not camp on the banks of the Zambezi unless I wanted to be dragged out of my tent in the middle of the night, or get trampled on by a hippo.

I'm happy to say that after a good night's sleep in my tent, during which I didn't get trampled on by any big scary animals, I got back on the road.

In the afternoon I stopped to visit a health worker called Mambwe, to see what a difference these bikes can make. She received hers from RFH 18 months ago.

Before she got the bike she tells me that in the rainy season she used to get stuck on her bicycle trying to reach families who live over 20km away down flooded sand tracks.

It's completely changed the way she works. Thanks to this simple bike, Mambwe can now provide health care to 6,000 people in this area rather than just the 200 she used to see before.

Together we rode to a village that has the highest levels of diarrhoea in the province. Mambwe showed me the only water supply for cooking and washing. The river had dried up leaving a big dirty stagnant puddle, making it a breeding ground for mosquitos and all sorts of waterborne diseases. It's impossible not to see this and realise how fortunate we are to take clean water for granted back home - just turning on a tap.

With less than half of the rural population having access to adequate clean drinking water it's easy to understand why almost one in 10 children in Zambia dies before they reach their fifth birthday.

Mambwe was able to bring them chlorination tablets and give the babies and children vital vaccinations and health checks. Seeing her in action really highlighted why it's so important to get the medics out where they're needed most.

The next day I complete my journey to get the bike to Twambo, who has been working as a field medic for nearly two and half years.

In one month he's supposed to make four visits to health posts 20km away, but realistically he can only go once a month because they're too far.

He's so happy when he sees his bike. He tells me he'll be able to reach nearly 9,000 people now, whereas he was only able to see 250 people before. It means their health will improve and lives will be saved.

Twambo proudly says that he knows how to check the oil filter, the breaks and nuts and bolts. 'I will be reliable now,' he says with a beam.

When you spend any time on a bike - you bond with it and become quite attached to it. But I knew this one was going to a brilliant home.

Back home I like to get out on my bike. It's when I can get into my zone. What was great about my three days in Zambia, is that I although riding bikes it was I do for fun, it was so much more rewarding than that and with real purpose.

Twambo's bike will help save lives. That's an amazing thing to give to someone.

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