Ernest Beck | Projects

Camel Mobile Clinic Update

A year ago Change Observer reported on the Camel Mobile Clinic, a system for transporting medicine via camel to remote African communities in Kenya and Ethiopia. The goal of the project is to design ergonomic saddles equipped with solar-powered refrigerators so that basic medicines such as vaccines can reach the local population, who live in remote, inaccessible regions.

Over the past year, further field-testing of the saddle-packaging system led to design modifications that are more in line with what local people use. In the original version, for example, a larger semi-circular contact area with the camel — which caused the saddle to slip if the animal changed its gait — was replaced with a smaller system with only one point of contact, making it more stable.

In addition, the old rigid solar panel was replaced with a new flexible panel that can be draped over the camel like a textile and weighs almost nothing.

“Overall, the new design is simpler and lighter and easier to assemble, as well as more culturally compatible,” says Wole Soboyejo a professor at Princeton University’s Institute of Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM), which is a partner in the project with the Kenyan-based Nomadic Communities Trust and DesignMatters at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

The new design was tested twice this year over short distances and will soon be field-tested on a long trek to deliver medicine.

Separately, a second field test in Ethiopia is taking place with a new version of the saddle that will enable someone to ride the camel (instead of walking beside the animal), which is preferred in Ethiopia.

Soboyejo says that after this round of testing the main issues that remain are fund-raising and how to scale up production. “Those questions still need to be answered,” he says.

Posted in: Health + Safety

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