C4A Distribution in Uganda
Crutches 4 Africa Distribution in Uganda

How much does it cost to ship a container to Africa? 

July 2013

Let me illustrate the cost of shipping a container of mobility devices from the US to Africa, for example Uganda, where our container arrived this March.  This container was the first one we purchased.  We bought it to serve as secure storage after it arrived in Uganda to await our arrival for the the distribution of the 3,000+ mobility devices inside.  We left the container with a local disability group to use as a workshop after we finished distribution.  We bought this container in Massachusetts, where Rotarians and other volunteers loaded it and from where it was shipped.  

Rotarians and volunteers sorting mobility equipment - Dracut, MA

Next was the expense of shipping, which covered a journey over the high seas from Boston to the port of Mombasa, Kenya, with several stops along the way to transfer the container to ships going in the right direction. After the container arrived in the port of Mombasa, there were fees for clearing customs in Kenya.  Next, the container was loaded onto a flat bed truck and transported overland to the Uganda border, about 600 miles from Mombasa. For that last leg of the journey, we paid for the truck, fuel, and a driver.

The little crane that couldn't - Tororo, Uganda

Summary of the shipping expenses for one container (US $): 

     Container:             $  4,000
     Shipping:              $  6,400
     Kenya customs:         $  1,500
     Overland transport:    $  4,500
     Uganda customs:        $    500
     Total:                 $ 16,900

This total is above our average cost per shipping container. Our goal is to transport used mobility devices from the USA to destinations in Africa for $3 per device. For this recent shipment to Uganda, the cost per unit was $6. We incurred the additional expense because we left the container in Uganda for use by the Benedictine Eye Hospital. They are using it for storage and as a workshop for fixing wheelchairs and other enterprises that the disabled people in the area could establish but for the lack of a place to do the work.  Often work is performed by the disabled community curb side, so a work location that can be closed and locked is a great benefit.

Contents of the Uganda container - Benedictine Eye Hospital, Tororo

The distribution was a wondrous experience, made better by two Crutches 4 Africa supporters with us from Washington state. See the C4A website for their personal reflections on the experience.

Our stalwart volunteers preparing for distribution - Busia, Uganda

At all times in Uganda we were supported by many local people and Rotarians, making it very gratifying to me personally to see the willingness they showed to help their fellow countrymen.  Several truck loads of mobility devices were also delivered to outlying and rural communities. Many of these distribution points were planned, but some happened on a moment's notice. 

Candice performs a roadside crutches fitting (in under 2 minutes!) - Bukedea, Uganda

One of the most memorable stops was to deliver new crutches to a young lady, age 14, who had fallen out of a tree 4 years ago and broke her leg.  It was a compound fracture and the solution for her injury was amputation.  She leads an active life and her original crutches had more than worn out. We were glad we could bring her a new pair. 

And here she is!

Often it was hot, the roads were bad, and the electricity was unreliable--but those inconveniences fade away quickly. What really matters are the people, their gratitude, and thanksgiving for greater mobility. 

Happy recipient - Busumbu, Uganda

We have already collected enough mobility devices to fill another container, but we lack the funding to ship it. Can you help?

In service,

David Talbot
Rotarian and Founder, Crutches 4 Africa


We've distributed 51,000 mobility devices so far!
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