The majority of public service vehicle drivers in Kenya have very little knowledge on first aid. When faced with minor or major vehicle accidents while at work, many depend on well wishers to come to the aid of victims.
Kenya has one of the worst road safety records in the world. There were over 3,057 road crash deaths in 2015, up from 2,907 in 2014. Pedestrians accounted for 1344 of these fatalities while 688 were passengers and 339 were drivers. (Road Safety is not something new in the country: The 1971 deathtoll was at 371 which shot to over 2,100 in 1991 leading to a popular local musician producing a song on PSV road safety). In many cases victims do not survive because they are not attended to on time. Generally, the first people to arrive at accident scenes are PSV drivers and conductors as the nature of their work keeps them on the road.
Research done at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Nairobi in 2014 showed that most Kenyan PSV drivers were only trained in driving and to some extent, in basic motor mechanics. In many countries, first aid is part of PSV training where public service and school bus drivers are expected to have a certain level of knowledge of first aid. In Canada, for example, first aid training is a requirement to work at most levels of public transit.
Two organizations, The Automobile Association of Kenya and St. John Ambulance, have teamed up with the Matatu Owners Association (who bring together public service vehicle owners). The organizations are working on a pilot project to provide public service vehicle drivers with first aid skills training and equip them for fast response to emergency situations on the road.
The Automobile Association of Kenya and St. John Ambulance are among the oldest institutions in Kenya. The Automobile Association of Kenya (East Africa) was started by Galdon Fenzi, the first man to drive from the coastal town of Mombasa to Nairobi, capital of Kenya. St. John Ambulance, a renowned first aid and ambulance services provider, were introduced to Kenya in 1920 initially to help persons wounded during conflicts between native Kenyans and settlers.
Owing to the fact that PSV crews deal with hundreds of citizens on a daily basis, it is believed that their acquisition of first aid skills will make an enormous contribution in helping save lives.
The project is entitled ‘”Msamaria Mwema Initiative” which means ‘Good Samaritan’ in Swahili. So far, the training sessions have taken place in Kenya’s two main cities, Nairobi and Mombasa.
The 6-month Msamaria Mwema project runs from June “ November 2016 and is targeting Matatu Owners Association (MOA) and its members as the principal beneficiaries. MOA will identify drivers on selected routes known to have black spots and where vehicle densities are highest. This will ensure maximum benefits from the training.
The selected locations are Nairobi, Mombasa, Voi, Machakos, Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Malaba, Kisumu and Thika.
Some of the key targets of the programme include:
- Impart First Aid knowledge & skills to at least 500 PSV drivers
- Improve post-crash care & management of victims before and during transit to hospital
- Change drivers attitudes towards accident victims & management of the scene of the accident in general
- Promote & raise awareness on the importance of defensive driving in road safety and accident prevention
It is hoped that after the training, the drivers will be empowered with first aid skills, their attitude and behavior towards accident victims will change for the better and thus more lives will be saved.
This training will go a long way towards improving standards for those getting into the PSV sector. Although many view the sector as a rogue and uncontrolled one it nevertheless continues to play a vital role in the economy with little or no modern transport system in the country. In the long term, the programme should be able to set new standards for public service vehicle work qualifications, where knowledge on safety is emphasized.
Queries, however, have been raised as to whether the programme can be extended to major bus services and long distance drivers. Continuous education is also critical and calls for some form of CPE for PSV drivers.