Zipline moves to eliminate barriers in medical delivery in Africa — Vice President

 Mr Daniel Marfo, Vice President Africa, Zipline delivery service, says
the company plans to revolutionise healthcare delivery in Africa using drones.

Marfor made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) during a facility tour to Zipline facility in North Ridga, Ghana.

He said that the major healthcare delivery challenge facing almost all countries, particularly those in developing world like Nigeria, was access to medical commodities.

According to him, in cases where medical products are available in good quantities, there is the usual challenge of even distribution of such life-saving commodities to hard-to-reach communities.

“This is one of many reasons why many health facilities in remote areas, especially those cut off by bad roads and river bodies will have to refer patients to the city centres for health services or in some cases, patients resorting to self-medication, which could come with dire consequences,” Marfor said.

The Zipline vice president said that the company planned to roll out across the world in order to remove all the barriers associated with the delivery of medical commodities to health facilities.

He said: “The company has built unmanned aerial drones to deliver medical commodities such as blood products to those who need them the most. This is a bold and revolutionary system.”

Speaking about the safety features of the drone since it commenced operation, he said Zipline drones are equipped with all the safety features one can think of.

He said besides the fact that the drone is unmanned, it has all other qualities of an airplane, two batteries, wings, and two propellers.

According to him, one of these is always redundant and comes in handy in the rare chance the other fails.

Marfor said: “The drone can only fly planned routes approved in advance by national aviation authorities, so it can’t be used by anyone outside of Zipline or sent somewhere it is not supposed to be.

“And when a drone in flight encounters extremely bad weather or any technical fault for which the drone cannot continue on its route, it deploys its inbuilt parachute, making it safe to land at its present location while at the same time communicating to the operators at the distribution site to retrieve it.

“The drones are also able to fly in all kinds of weather; both day and night.

“The good news is that Zipline works hand-in-hand with all the in-country regulators to get the necessary permit and clearance before they start operations.

“The Civil Aviation Authorities also approve the flight routes and, if they want to, every fight before their takeoff.

He recalled that Zipline’s journey in Africa started when the government of Rwanda took the bold decision to be part of the early adopters of the company’s technology to deliver blood commodities to communities that are far from the city centres and thus hard-to-reach.

“Through a simple WhatsApp message, SMS or call from an approved health worker to the Zipline delivery center, a staff is able to package the requested medical commodity and have it deployed to the requesting facility within minutes.

“Within 45 minutes, we are able to deliver to the farthest location within our distribution radius.

“And this is a distance that by road could take as much as four hours depending on the road conditions.

Marfo said that the company’s success story in Rwanda was what attracted the Ghanaian government to invite Zipline to set up a similar operational facility in Ghana.

“Today, Ghana hosts four of the company’s medical drone delivery services, which many say is the biggest in the world in terms of capacity for daily delivery.

“On average, 400 emergency medical products are delivered from the four distribution centers to over 300 hospitals, clinics or health centers in about seven regions of Ghana.

“These numbers translate into the number of lives saved as many of the medical commodities are critical and life-saving and mostly needed in emergency situations.

“As the entire world looks for solutions to equal access to COVID-19 vaccines to all parts of their communities, Ghana is leveraging the capacity of medical drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to health facilities in remote areas on-demand.

“Ghana, thus, is the first country worldwide to use medical drones to deliver both COVID-19 samples and vaccines to test centres and health facilities respectively.

“The concern of building cold storage facilities was no more on the table as Zipline already has those facilities and deliver exact numbers as required in a given minute,” he added. (NAN)