What you need to know:
- A collaboration between Zipline Kenya and Kisumu County will see over 400 health facilities receive medical supplies via drone technology.
- These supplies include blood, medicine, nutrition supplements and animal health products. Unlike vehicle deliveries, drones can reach the most remote parts of any country, unlocking access to healthy by villagers who live in areas with impassable roads or paths during rains or floods.
It’s Monday mid-morning.
The Healthy Nation team has just visited the command hub of American drone start-up Zipline in Chemelil, Kisumu County.
Sharon Omoja collects medical products from the firm’s warehouse. They are packaged in a red box, which is fitted with a parachute, ready to be flown to Migere Dispensary in Masogo, Muhoroni Sub-county, some 13 kilometres away.
Using her smartphone, she scans a code on a white drone that will be used to deliver medical products at the hospital. The products are then loaded.
"Our package boxes have a parachute because our drones don't land at the site. The drone releases the package, then the parachute enables the package to land smoothly without any damages,” Sharon tells Healthy Nation.
She does flight checks and consultations with the drone controller for clearance. The flight operator presses a green button and the drone takes off, ascending about 15 metres from the ground.
If one was to supply the products by road it would have taken 30 minutes, but if done by drone it takes only three minutes. Sharon tracks the drone flight on her smartphone till it delivers the products and flies back.
Zipline’s distribution hub in Chemelil is the first-ever drone deliveries of any products in the country.
A collaboration between Zipline Kenya and Kisumu County will see over 400 health facilities receive medical supplies via drone technology. These supplies include blood, medicine, nutrition supplements and animal health products. Unlike vehicle deliveries, drones can reach the most remote parts of any country, unlocking access to healthy by villagers who live in areas with impassable roads or paths during rains or floods.
During the launch of the drone technology, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said it’s a significant step towards the county’s universal health coverage goals.
“We look forward to working closely with Zipline to improve healthcare delivery and access across the county and to the larger Lake Region Economic Bloc,” said Prof Nyong'o.
“This partnership is in conjunction with the Community Strategy of our County Integrated Development Programme, which aims to increase community access to healthcare to improve community productivity, decrease poverty and child and maternal deaths.”
Kisumu Health Executive Gregory Ganda said pregnant women and sick residents will no longer have to be referred to other facilities solely because of non-availability of medicines and other health products especially those needed in emergency situations.
In a county where there's a growing number of snake bite incidents majorly in Seme and Nyakach sub-counties, the drone technology will help in delivering anti-venom kits in hospitals.
According to Dr Ganda, the county treats between 1,000 to 1,500 cases of snake bites every year.
“Apart from bilharzia, snake bite is the second most common neglected disease in Kisumu, with most cases reported in Seme and Nyakach sub-counties,” said Dr Ganda.
Dr Ganda said health practitioners who require vaccines to protect children against fatal diseases in childhood will no longer be required to close their facilities and ride motorcycles to pick up vaccination kits.
Zipline’s medical distribution hub is equipped with cold chain storage system that keeps all products within the recommended temperatures standards for delivery.
Zipline Kenya General Manager Winfred Njeri said the instant logistics system will enable community health facilities to consistently receive the medical products they need when they need them.
“After already flying more than 35 million commercial miles, this is not a test flight to prove our technology, but one to demonstrate to our partners in Kenya its reliability," said Ms Njeri. "We look forward to serving more counties from this hub.”
Founded in 2014, Zipline is an instant delivery service that operates a drone manufacturing and delivery system.
But its medical supplies wing holds the biggest potential as it helps to ramp up national healthcare systems and connect hospitals and laboratories with patients, improving outcomes and reducing wait times, especially in remote communities.
Kenya is now Zipline’s fifth country of operation in Africa after successful launches in Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire.