Ola Orekunrin was studying to become a doctor in the UK a few years ago when her younger sister fell seriously ill while traveling in Nigeria. The 12-year-old girl, who’d gone to the West African country on holiday with relatives, needed urgent care but the nearest hospital couldn’t deal with her condition.
Orekunrin and her family immediately began looking for an air ambulance service to rapidly transport the girl, a sickle cell anemia sufferer, to a more suitable healthcare facility. They searched all across West Africa but were stunned to find out there was none in the whole region.
“The nearest one at the time was in South Africa,” remembers Orekunrin. “They had a 12-hour activation time so by the time they were ready to activate, my sister was dead.
“It was really a devastating time for me and I started thinking about whether I should be in England talking about healthcare in Africa, or I should be in Africa dealing with healthcare and trying to do something about it.”