January 13, 2014 AT 2:00 pm

This Nigerian doctor runs his hospital on corn cobs and used bike parts

PRI has an inspirational story out of Nigeria about a doctor who took whatever materials he had available to him and made a hospital for his town. His work has been lauded all over the world and his hospital is known for reliable competent care.

In the small farming town of Eruwa, Nigeria, goats graze outside the entrance of a low concrete building. Inside, mothers recline with their babies on worn, well-used beds.

This is Eruwa’s main hospital. It isn’t fancy, and it isn’t meant to be.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it’s functional,” says Dr. Oluyombo Awojobi. He founded the hospital 27 years ago on that philosophy.

What keeps his hospital running — and growing — are cheap, simple devices that he designs and makes himself.

“I’m using materials readily available in my backyard,” he says.

His blood centrifuge, which separates plasma from red blood cells, is made from used bike parts. You pedal with your hands and it spins the blood sample as fast as the propeller on a small airplane.

The suction pump that the clinic uses to remove blood and fluids during surgery is made from the valve on a bicycle inner tube and is also powered by pedaling.

The hospital’s boiler is made from an old propane tank. For fuel, it uses corn cobs collected from nearby farms. The boiler produces steam for the autoclave, which sterilizes the surgical equipment.

Because most of Awojobi’s devices don’t need electricity, the hospital doesn’t have to rely on the town’s unpredictable electrical grid or spend a lot of money running diesel generators when power is down.

That keeps care at the hospital affordable to the farmers who make up its clientele. Delivering a baby costs $30.

And Dr. Awojobi says there is another advantage to designing his own equipment. “Because I make it, I will know how to mend it,” he explains. “I don’t have to depend upon anybody else.”

As for his inventions, Awojobi wants to make them as widely available as possible. He does not seek patents. Instead, he publishes his designs in international medical journals.

Read more.

This Nigerian doctor runs his hospital on corn cobs and used bike parts Public Radio International


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