Kaduna’s medical drone project takes off

Kaduna, NIGERIA — It took over a year to get here, but finally a Zip has made its first medical delivery in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna.

The Kaduna government announced that leading drone logistics services supplier Zipline conducted the initial flights last week; a development that seals the integration of medical drone logistics into the state’s health systems and validation with the local regulatory authorities.

After signing the memorandum of understanding in February last year, the completion of the first flights marks the final steps for a project that is expected to deliver medical supplies to hundreds of health facilities in Kaduna, to help create a more agile, more responsive and accessible health system.

“Zipline has a proven track record of health system transformation,” said Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai. “Today, we’re making our first flights to pave the way toward bringing this proven service to Kaduna State. We are proud to be the very first state in Nigeria to adopt this innovative supply chain to support our efforts in healthcare delivery. Zipline’s system is a powerful next step in Kaduna State’s ongoing efforts to create a smarter, stronger health system that better serves everyone in our state.”

Subject to regulatory approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, regular commercial flights are expected later this month.

Zipline will be initially operating from three distribution hubs in the state, delivering to around 500 health centres and serving close to 9,5 million people across an area of 46,000 square kilometres.

(At this point, we thought it would be important to mention that the overall plan was to cover the over 1,000 health centres in the whole state, across 60,000 square kilometres. Given the amount of input involved in getting a massive project of this scale off the ground – setting up the hubs and stocking them with medical supplies, getting the necessary concessions to fly the drones, among other requirements; we figure the parties thought to go with the first three hubs while working out on how to serve the rest of the state).

Zipline has said it will start by delivering more than 200 different medical products, including medicines and routine vaccines, with plans to expand to more areas soon. The company will also bring its proven COVID-19 vaccine distribution model to Nigeria.

Well; yea. Zipline are really good at cold chain logistics; the company and its partners pioneered this model with the Government of Ghana, and to date, they have successfully delivered more than 1,2 million COVID-19 vaccines across the fellow west Africa country.

“Investment in the supply chain makes health systems more efficient, effective and equitable,” said Amina Mohammed Baloni, Health Commissioner of Kaduna State. “Today’s flights are an important step toward ensuring people across Kaduna State have access to the care they need, precisely when and where they need it to drive better health outcomes and foster healthier communities.”

Zipline’s Senior Vice President of Africa, Daniel Marfo said his company was excited to open another frontier for drone logistics.

“Instant logistics enables governments and health systems to optimise their supply chains and reimagine how care is delivered,” he said. “Today’s flights mark one more step toward unlocking these benefits for millions more people, and bringing us one step closer to effective, agile systems that better serve all people.”

Zipline has a demonstrated track record of working with governments and health systems to transform health supply chains to be more efficient, accessible and sustainable. A recent independent study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, showed Zipline’s instant logistics system has significantly increased the availability, reliability and range of inventory at health facilities in Ghana by addressing supply chain challenges.

“With more than 315,000 commercial deliveries worldwide, Zipline has built an impressive record of safe, reliable, impactful service,” said Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which played a part in ensuring the success of these first flight missions.

“Soon, the company is expected to bring this game-changing service to millions more people, and bring us one step closer to a world where anyone can get whatever they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”

Nigeria marks Zipline’s third country of operation in Africa, following national-scale operations in Ghana and Rwanda; and its fifth globally.

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