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Mobile Clinics, Kenyan Style: On Camelback

Camel clinic

Picture a mobile clinic, and you might think of a big, high-tech SUV kitted with tiny lab facilities. But in Kenya? Not so much. As Earnest Beck points out over at Design Observer, camels are the most efficient and cheap transportation in those regions of Kenya populated by nomads, and lacking serviceable roads. And that has its own problems. According to Beck:

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For the past decade, theKenyan-based Nomadic Communities Trust (NCT) has sent camel convoys –the most efficient and cost-effective means of transportation–to theregion with medical supplies. But poor equipment (basically, woodenboxes tied to the camels with abrasive sisal rope) and lack ofrefrigeration meant that basic medicines such as vaccines could not bemade available.

Solution?

In 2005, the NCT partnered with Designmattersat Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and PrincetonUniversity’s Institute of Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM),a multidisciplinary research center in the general field of materials,on several prototypes for methods to preserve and transport medicalsupplies. A multifunctional system was developed made from bamboo toprovide a lightweight, durable ergonomic saddle along with a saddlebackstructure that holds a compartmented refrigerated unit and solar powergenerator. The saddles improve the efficiency of the loads carried overrugged terrain. The crystalline solar panels can also be deployed bythe mobile clinics for lighting and refrigeration in the field.

The project took just a few thousand dollars to build, and it was tested out stateside using camels at the Bronx Zoo. The organizers think it could be up and running by 2010, if funding comes through.

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Read more about the project at Change Observer. You can see more information on the clinics at Design Matters.

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