Gambia makes play for medical drones

A delivery drone recently made a successful delivery of medical to a health facility in The Gambia recently, in a first for the country that could kickstart the onset of widespread medical drone deliveries to health facilities across the country.

The medical drone made the fifteen-minute journey from Brikama Health Regional Office in the West Coast Region, where it picked up the medicines, before flying 20km to Gunjur Health facility in Kombo South to make the drop off.

Since then, there has been a few more successful trials, which are being done under the watchful eye of the country’s health ministry; a non-profit foundation called ARDA; and the Medical Research Council (MRC) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The three parties are working on the feasibility of using unmanned aerial systems and related technology to transport health supplies such as vital vaccines, drugs, and clinical samples in The Gambia.

“The technology being tested allows a route to be set-up with user-friendly software to fly drones capable of round-trips of up to 100km,” said the London School of Health and Tropical Hygiene in a social media post.

“Taking off from key healthcare facilities, drones could reduce delivery waiting times and the resources needed in remote settings, which is particularly important for keeping vaccines at the correct temperature. Using drones could also help to cut carbon emissions.

“The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, is one of a number of MRC projects looking at new ways to improve the environmental sustainability of medical practices and to promote sustainable research.”

The move, widely credited to be less cost effective, efficient and less time consuming and is something that would greatly reduce burden on the Ministry of Health.

Also, the introduction of this drone services would now ensure timely delivery of medical supplies to nearest health facilities in the country.

Medical drone deliveries have been very effective, if not completely flawless, in Africa since the first Robin from Zipline delivered blood sachets that saved the life of a young girl in Rwanda in December 2016.

Since then, medical drone deliveries have expanded to other African countries that include Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, the DRC, Kenya, Nigeria, and lately, Botswana.

In these locations drones have reduced to mere minutes the medical journeys that used to take hours and sometimes days to remote communities, thereby drastically improving health service delivery.

Speaking shortly after the departure of the medical drone at Brikama Health Regional Office, Jeand’Arc Jarju Kujabi, Regional Director of Health Services at West Coast Region, commended ARDA Foundation and all partners for this latest technological development, which she said, would greatly reduce burden on the Ministry.

The coming of this medical drone service, she said, was long overdue and that it greatly changes the status-quo as tech innovations take shape around the globe.

This development, she added, was proof that that The Gambia would not be left behind in in the application of disruptive technologies to government operations.

She urged Gambia citizens to embrace this latest technological advancement, which she said would go a long way in easing challenges in the transportation of medical items to various health centres across the country.


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