In Madagascar, a health related pilot project is using drones to get medical assistance for tuberculosis patients. The drones are being specifically used in hard to reach areas of the country to collect samples and deliver medical supplies.

The pilot project is a partnership between Canada's Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), America's Stony Brook University, and the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar.

“In just a few hours, the drone makes a trip that is logistically and economically extremely difficult for many villagers, especially if they are sick. These are villages that are walk-in only, with no ambulance service. Travelling to the nearest hospital from a remote part of Madagascar can take days, and, if an individual is sick and those accompanying them have no family near the hospital, this trip can incur significant expense,” said Elysée Nouvet, a medical anthropologist from Canada's Western’s School of Health Studies, earlier in 2019 when the project was first announced.

Vayu's Drones Deliver Healthcare in Rural Madagascar

Drones for medical deliveries in Africa

Over the past 5 or so years there has been an increase in the uptake of using drones across various African countries. Specifically, the most popular use case for drones has become, just like with Madagascar, that of collecting blood samples and delivering medical supplies.

One company that has benefited from this has been the USA's Zipline.

Rwanda was arguably among the first countries to do this with Zipline drones which can make up to 150 deliveries per day. They deliver blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of Rwanda. Tanzania also partnered with Zipline to launch what they dubbed the world’s largest medical drone delivery service. Earlier in 2019 Ghana also announced a multimillion dollar deal it awarded to Zipline to make medical deliveries in the West African country. Most recently in 2019, the South African National Blood Service designed its own drones for the transportation of blood.

Unreachable areas

The drones being used in Madagascar are reported to be able to cover long distances over difficult to reach terrain. The advantage with drones especially in Madagascar is, unlike off-road vehicles which can't navigate the terrain during rain season, they can be flown during the rainy season whenever needed.

To complement the drones, the pilot project also makes use of mobile phone apppas and volunteers in villages. The volunteers are given basic medical training so that they can be the communication link between medical workers and the village.

The other role the volunteers play is to educate patients in the villages on the importance of taking medication, and more.

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