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Kaduna to engage drones for medical supplies

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Zipline drones at Distribution Centre, Omenako, Ghana

On June 26, 2021, a pregnant, haemorrhaging patient arrived at Asamankese Hospital in rural Ghana. The patient required four units of O+ blood, which was not stocked at the facility.

Fortunately, there’s a third, life-saving option.

Similarly, last month, a woman at Apedwa Health Centre, Aduakwa South, Ghana, who had pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys, needed a drug to stabilise before she could be referred to a district hospital but there was none.

She, however, got a lifeline, when the hospital ordered the drug and within five minutes, it came and administered to her before she was taken to the nearest referral point in the district.

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Deputy chief Physician Assistant, at Apedwa Health Centre, Frank Klonla Wunu, said before the intervention of Zipline, an American medical product delivery company, the woman would had lost her life because supplies only come from regional medical store.

He stressed that the hospital ran a system in which they spend almost one hour to get supplies when the drugs ran out but with Zipline in place, when they ran out of drugs, they placed orders and get respond within five to ten minutes of the request time.

“Usually the drugs that we request are fluid Infusions and other vaccines and tablets, which are not heavy,” he added.

Unfortunately, this is not the same for many communities because of insecurity, bad roads, which made many communities in the state inaccessible.

However, spurred by the successes of Zipline story in Ghana, Kaduna State Government has reached agreement with Zipline to supply essential health commodities to unreached communities occasioned by the high level of insecurity in the state.

Under the agreement, vital medical supplies needed to save lives in rural communities and disaster zones will supply through Zipline drones.

The computerised drones are launched from delivery centres after the requested drugs are packed in a delivery box measuring about 1.75 kilogrammes and delivered at the location within minutes.

The box contained SR scan code, which is detected by drones and control from unaided from the centre.

Some of the vital medical deliveries include blood, vaccines and essential drugs that cannot be stored in the communities.

The Guardian learnt that Zipline will operate from Rafingyeda, Pambegua and Kachia delivery centres.

Already, some Kaduna State indigenes are undergoing training both at Zipline Academy and fulfillment centres in Ghana.

One of them, Samuel Timothy Noma, a pharmacist from Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State, believed that the intervention of Zipline would make a huge difference in primary healthcare delivery in Kaduna.

Noma, who was recruited for the KD1 scheme and working at Zipline Distribution Centre, Omenako, Ghana, told The Guardian that with insecurity problems occasioned by banditry, kidnappers and cattle rustling, the difficult top reach communities will benefit much from the project.

Also, Samuel Akuifo, who was being trained at Fulfillment Operation, Omenako Centre, noted that the firm will be involved in community works to sensitise on the acceptability of the life saving mission of Zipline.

Speaking more on the agreement with the Kaduna State Government, Senior Vice President, Zipline Africa, Mr. Daniel Marfo, said the project is at completion stage and will be launched in September, while Cross River State will follow before the end of the year.

He said with rising security challenges occasioned by banditry and kidnappers in Kaduna, Zipline drone will be a game changer in primary health delivery system in the state.

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Marfo explained that Zipline’s mission is to provide every human on earth with three Zipline ISO-certified hubs, with 22,500 square km coverage per hub, 3,600 facilities served; 25 million people covered and 2.7 metric tons of freight delivered daily.

He stressed that the fly to save project, was meant to reach the unreached by reducing wastages on healthcare delivery

According to him, Zipline is the world’s only last-mile aerial logistics company delivering medical commodities at national scale, every day.

Beyond healthcare, he said, the firm operates on demand multi-purpose aerial logistics system with warehousing that is best-in-class inventory management, including specialised storage equipment and tight controls.

He said Zipline also promotes patient trust in the healthcare system, which influences healthcare utilisation.

Speaking further, Morfa said the operation in Kaduna will increase the health system’s responsiveness to preventable deaths that would have been exacerbated due to low service utilisation and limited product availability.

Zipline, he said, has invested $1.5million in infrastructure and equipment with ripple effect on the local economy as its spending on housing, food service vendors, and partnership with local suppliers creates opportunities to improve the economy. 100 per cent local talent will manage and learn from cutting-edge technology and health system innovation with increased collaboration with international partners, donors, and tech companies.

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Explaining further on Zipline;s operations, Lead, Performance Operations, Omenako Distribution Centre, Mrs. Florence Haruna , said before embarking on delivery, several stimulations are conducted with pre -validation to avoid breakages.

She said most of the distributed medical supplies are COVID vaccines and vaccines for snake bites, that could cost the human lives.

At Omenako Distribution centre, he said, requests are received through phone calls, WhatsApp or text messages and immediately processed and sent to the launcher for onward delivery.

The Flight operator, John Jeremiah Dunah , said scans are run through the QR code, sent to the locations and ensure 24/7 support.

He said Zipline Service includes full fleet of drones and supporting technology , serves up to 700 delivery points in 20,100 km2 service area , carry 95 per cent of typical outpatient prescription shipments and 75 per cent of typical med-surgical products, deliver to hospital campuses, outpatient practices, and patients’ homes and creates 25-35 highly skilled jobs per cent for local talent.

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