FN: The drone launch project is a ground-breaking project that VillageReach, through Gavi funding and in partnership with the DRC Ministry of Health and other technical partners including Swoop Aero, are launching in Équateur Province. This is a Province with many geographical challenges that has 18 health districts, more than half of which are only accessible by river. This makes the supply chain and transportation of vaccines from the Provincial storage to the remote health storage facilities very difficult. These are very hard to reach places where drones are needed, especially during the rainy season.
This project is aiming to increase equitable access to vaccines in those health centres which are very hard to reach. If we want to reach a child wherever he or she is with vaccines, we need to deploy relevant tools and logistics to do so.
FN: The drones we are using in the demonstration flight can take-off and land. So there is a take-off and landing site, where the health centre team can take the vaccines or other health-related products, and just push a button to send the drone back to where it came from. This means that it can perform reverse logistics, such as sending back expired to the storage site.
FN: The drones we are using are capable of transporting two-three kilos, which is quite considerable in terms of vaccine doses.
FN: I’d also like to highlight the incredible support of the National and Provincial Ministry of Health. After the tests we conducted at the beginning of July, the Provincial Government started investing in the take-off site to prepare for the demonstration, showing great interest and commitment, which is commendable.
VillageReach works with governments to solve health care delivery challenges in low-resource communities. While tremendous investments have been made to bring new medicines, technologies, and other global health innovations to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), barriers to delivering these innovations and providing basic health services remain a significant challenge, especially in the most rural and remote communities. Health systems simply don’t have the capacity to effectively respond to demand through to the last mile – where healthcare is delivered. Sustainable and scalable solutions in this setting require an integrated approach with a focus on last mile delivery. This is the cornerstone of our mission.