Using drones to help African countries during Covid-19
Ghana became the first country in the world to receive a consignment of Covid-19 vaccines by drone.
The Covax doses, which arrived in Accra a week earlier as part of a cargo of 600 000 vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, were collected by healthcare workers after a precisely targeted parachute drop.
By day’s end, Zipline, the world’s first national-scale drone delivery service, had dropped 36 consignments of the Covid-19 vaccines, facilitating 4500 vaccinations.
UPS, Zipline and Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance – had teamed up to deliver vaccines by drone across Ghana almost two years ago, for immunisation and other health purposes.
For Gavi, the aim was to support Ghana’s vision for the expansion and improvement of its national routine immunisation programme and, in doing so, to create a platform that could benefit the wider health agenda.
Since then, Zipline’s fleet of fixed-wing flyers has delivered more than a million doses to rural health-care centres, many hard to reach over land, or which struggle to ensure an unbroken cold chain.
Zipline is a Californian automated logistics company that uses drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of high-priority products, among them emergency and routine vaccines.
With the Covid-19 vaccine deliveries, the broader health benefits are bearing fruit. On-demand deliveries of vaccines and other medical essentials are “an integral part of daily life” at thousands of health facilities in Ghana.
“Across the country, Zipline is a mission-critical, reliable and resilient part of Ghana’s medical supply,” the company said. It is working on helping the government achieve “the fastest, most convenient, safest and most equitable roll out” of Covid19 vaccines in the world.
Ghana is building on the success of the partnership between the Rwandan government and Zipline, facilitated by Gavi and supported by philanthropic grants and in-kind support from The UPS Foundation, which pioneered just-intime drone delivery of other health products to hardto-reach clinics in Rwanda. The use of drones by Ghana and Rwanda illustrates how tough conditions can inspire innovation.
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