“Look at me, stay with us,” the paramedics shout as a barely conscious motorcyclist is bundled into a volunteer ambulance in the Laotian capital Vientiane, where rampant drink driving brings nightly carnage to the roads. It is a grim scene familiar the world over. But in Laos, an impoverished and authoritarian country with almost no state-funded medical services, these kind of vital lifesavers are volunteers and entirely funded by donations. And they have never been more in demand. By the time the crew arrive at a nearby hospital, the Japanese donated ambulance, a right hand drive vehicle in a left hand drive nation, has picked up two more injured on the way. Fresh calls for help are coming in all the time. “Before we launched this service, after an accident the wounded were simply left on the roadside or taken away in tuk-tuks. That’s obviously disastrous for those with fractures or trauma,” explained Sébastien Perret, a French national and former firefighter who helped found the group. Poorly maintained roads, dilapidated vehicles, an increase in motorcycle use and the widespread prevalence of drink driving makes Vientiane one of Asia’s most precarious capitals for road deaths. Years of rapid growth The government…
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