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AABL News Digest
‘Engozi’ Stretchers: Traditional Transport

During the 1930s in Uganda, there were clan heads locally known as Abatikyiri. These were leaders who were extremely respected due to the positions they held. Clan heads were not supposed to travel long distances on foot for administrative purposes. For this reason, the clan heads came up with a solution that would ease their transportation from one place to another.

As a result, people started gathering bamboo trees and other plant species to make a stretcher commonly known as ‘engozi’ wherein the Omutikyiri, carried by slaves, would sit comfortably with a calabash filled with local porridge to drink while on a journey.

From there on, local people most especially hunters started to realize how imperative stretchers were. So whenever a hunter would get an injury while hunting, his colleagues would gather trees and make a stretcher where he would be carried home and treated with local herbs.

Stretchers continued to be of greater importance in a way that people started using them to carry brides on marriage ceremonies. A bride would be carried from her parent’s home up to the groom`s home.

With time, people started using them for transporting patients to the hospitals and in cases where one would die from the hospital; they would use them to carry the body home.

Unlike today when there are many cars, health facilities and roads across the country, those days, very few people had cars, and there were no accessible community roads to get to a health facility, so people would walk for 10- 25kms carrying a patient or seeking for treatment.

So the people then who had stretchers would hire them out although some people would fail to meet the costs and even if costs were met, sometimes it was hard to get volunteers to carry your patient or a body from the hospital.

This forced the people to start forming groups of 12 to 30 members locally known as “bataka tweyambe” meaning "let`s help ourselves" whereby each member would pay some money towards the purchase of a stretcher to be on standby in case of a problem. Whenever one fell sick, all the men in the group would help in carrying the patient to the hospital.

Currently, people no longer use stretchers except those in very hilly areas like Kabale in the south west part of Uganda because the government has been able to construct roads across the country and at least most of the villages can be accessible by cars, motorcycles or bicycles.

Also quite a number of medical centers and hospitals have been constructed in most parts of the country from the district level down to the parish level so that everyone can access a health facility without having to travel far distances.

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