Young engineers offer new hope for Malawi in Covid-19 fight

A prototype of a ventilator is seen at a polytechnic laboratory amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Photo by: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A prototype of a ventilator is seen at a polytechnic laboratory amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Photo by: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Published Apr 23, 2020


As one way of trying to find solutions against Covid-19, a group of young engineers at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi have developed several innovative products aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

Among the innovations, the group has unveiled a locally made "low cost" ventilator, 3D printable and reusable face masks, drones, hand sanitisers, wheelchair bed, plastic face shields, pedal water dispensers and portable solar cooler.

According to the manager of the Innovation Design Studio at the campus, Hillary Lodzanyama, all the innovations were made using locally available resources and they cost less to build compared to other similar products that are on the market.

Lodzanyama highlighted that the innovations are basically targeting to help local Malawians who are not financially sound to buy protective materials like portable hand sanitisers.

He also pointed out the most innovative equipment such as the ventilators and reusable face masks have been tested carefully by experts to ensure they are fit to meet a required global standard.

Lack of enough healthcare equipment is the biggest challenge in the country. According to latest reports from local media, Malawi has only 17 respiratory machines in all its major hospitals in the country.

Malawi is among African countries with fewer numbers of people affected with Covid-19, however, critics have questioned lack of testing kits and other medical materials to be one of contributing factor to this trend.

However, this group of young engineers is moving with a belief that through science and innovation Malawi will become a Covid-19 free nation in no time.

The design studio is not resting in its efforts to meet Malawi's healthcare resource gap. According to Hope Chilunga, a designing engineer at the college, the innovation programme is also aimed at helping all hospitals including those in remote areas.

Chilunga pointed out that the newly innovated drones will help to transfer medicine and blood samples from one health unit to another whilst minimising travel and fuel cost in the process.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and the United Nations have pledged to support the initiative.

Delegates from these sectors visited the Design studio on Wednesday, where they were taken through the process of how the materials and equipment could perform in regards to Covid-19.

Both delegates were impressed with what they saw during the visit and they promised to support the team in research, production and purchasing the materials.

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