Simon Mbasi, South Sudan
A population of over 40,000 people in Ibba county, South Sudan rely on one ambulance and one ambulance driver. His name is Simon Mbasi.
Simon Mbasi: ambulance driver
Ibba County is tucked in the South West of South Sudan and borders the Democratic Republic of Congo. A population of over 40,000 people in this county rely on just one ambulance and one ambulance driver.
That driver's name is Simon Mbasi.
As a young man working as a school bus driver in the newly independent South Sudan, Simon had never thought of working for a hospital. What were the odds considering that his community was faced with the threat of recurring conflicts and weakened health systems? Not to mention that he had never driven an ambulance before. What he did think was: 'how great it would be to save a life?'
Although Simon is trained as a first aider, his work is fraught with challenges. His ambulance is not equipped with the usual medical equipment that you would expect for an emergency response vehicle. He also covers an expansive county with a radius of up to 57 miles and many inaccessible areas; it is one of the most isolated places in South Sudan.
While there is a network of roads that link towns and communities, not one of these roads is tarmac, so accessibility during the rainy season is often poor. Waterlogged red-soiled roads cut through the temperate forests, and as you drive through the puddles, the endless greenery of vegetation stretches to the horizon.
It is common for people living in remote communities to have to cycle up to 2km to get to a tall tree that they can climb to get mobile network coverage in order to make the call to the ambulance. Yet often, the ambulance is several hours' journey away from them.
The most common emergency calls that Simon gets are usually hernia and those of pregnant mothers. "If you delay when you get these calls, the patient can die," he says, adding,
"even though sometimes it's raining, it's late at night; I have to show up to save the life."