By Dayo Yussuf for TRT Africa
GARISSA—Garissa in North Eastern Kenya is one of the hottest places in the country with temperatures sometimes soaring to 40 degrees Celcius. The landscape is a dry blend of flat and mountainous terrain.
It has huge agricultural potentials with the locals engaged crop and livestock production.
Drivers have to constantly give way to thousands of Camels, cattle and goats crossing the roads under the guide of local herdsmen.
One of the drivers plying the road is Batula Ali Abdullah. As a female ambulance driver, Batula is breaking away with tradition in a job dominated by men.
About 10 km off road to the East, lies Hagadera Camp. It is a large refugee camp hosting more than 100,000 people with the numbers increasing by the day.
Those sheltering at the decades-old camp are people driven by severe droughts or insecurity from their communities mainly women and children.
Batula usually shuttles between the camp and Garissa General Hospital providing much needed emergency services for high risk patients.
“I have been a driver for almost 15 years. I worked as a driver for the ministry of works but since 2019 I started working as an ambulance driver,’’ Batula tells TRT Afrika.
Batula is the only female ambulance driver in the area and since her first emergency drive in 2019, she never looked back. “I have found my calling here,’’ she says.
‘’I feel very pleased when I see how I am helping get people the emergency help they need. I have carried women who were on the brink of bleeding to death. I rushed them to the hospital and they were saved,’’ she adds.
Batula never imagined herself in the medical profession. But in the last four years, she has been in the thick of things.Batula sometimes drives 15 different patients a day. She is proud of the power of her contribution to saving people in desperate situations.
‘’I have helped some women give birth and helped cut the umbilical cord. It made me feel a rush. I felt so helpful,’’ she recounts with a sense of satisfaction.
Women feel happy
Batula now has an ambition of deepening her medical skills with further training. ‘’I am thinking to go and train now as a nurse or a midwife. I think there is something special in helping to bring someone into this world. Very satisfying,’’ she adds.
Batula’s story has been making rounds in Kenya and some parts of neighbouring Somalia. She says a lot of women are happy and more comfortable when she is in the driver’s seat.
‘’The women of Somali origin are usually very shy when being attended to by men. When I am there and I can help them, they are very happy. Sometimes they ask for me,’’ she tells TRT Afrika.
Some say this highlights the need for more women in the medical profession and emergency services. ‘’I wish to see more women and girls in this profession. They can do it,’’ she says.
Batula inspires young girls from the region raising hope of boosting the number of female ambulance drivers and medics.
‘’When little girls see me ‘fly so fast’ in an ambulance, with sirens on, they cheer on. They ask me if they can also be ambulance drivers like me,’’ she says.
The journey to acceptance as a female ambulance driver wasn’t always easy though.
Batula says at first, she met some resistance from some members of her family and the community who felt she was pushing a boundary.
‘’At first they didn’t understand. But now they are very happy with me. They are proud of my work.’’
The job of an ambulance driver demands total commitment and it is time-consuming sometimes with odd-hour calls to attend to emergencies. Batula says this is one of the challenges.
However, she says, this only encourages her instead to being an obstacle. She believes apart from the job satisfaction that she derives, a lot of people depend on her for care and inspiration.
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