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Drones to take part in health sector

Drones to take part in health sector

After refusing to allow private institutions use drones for public good for security reasons, Ethiopia is set to use drone technology (UAVs) for the delivery of vaccines, blood and other health related commodities in the rural areas later on this year.

 “The drones will be tested and put to use this year,” Amir Aman, Ethiopia’s Health Minister announced via Twitter on Thursday, crediting the advanced technology as “life-saving.”

Amir told The Reporter that in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, the drone technology will be deployed in six places including Bahir Dar, Dire Dawa and Hawassa with each place having four drones bringing the total to 24 drones. Furthermore, he stated that the pilot program will be tested before the end of August and if it proves successful, the program will continue automatically. If not, there will be another pilot test in October conducted in collaboration with Zipline to choose which one would be best.

The announcement comes after a number of NGO’s and partners lobbying the Ethiopian government for years, using its usage in the rural parts of Rwanda and Kenya as examples. This included an effort made from Ren Wang, the Assistant Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who offered to facilitate all logistics and financial resources to help a Sululta based milk factory, Elemtu Integrated Milk Industry SC with its transportation of raw milk bought from farmers to the company’s headquarters since last year.

Rwanda has become a nation to emulate as an example on how drones can deliver some of the necessities of life, specifically blood. Rwanda’s Ministry of Health teamed up with a Silicon Valley based robotics company, Zipline, a few years ago and started delivering blood, reducing the time it took to deliver it.

The company estimates, it has helped it deliver approximately 5,500 units of blood in just a year, in hard to reach rural parts of the nation, including in a dozen regional public hospitals serving millions of vulnerable people.  The technology is also credited to reduce maternal deaths with its timely blood delivery which is widespread in the developing world.

The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) has been drafting a policy and contemplating drone regulations for the country for almost a year. The minister’s announcement was the first positive sign that it will be used in the nation.