UNICEF makes history by delivering vaccines to children using drones for the first time
When talking about drones as couriers, we always thought of the projects of Amazon, DHL and other companies specialized in messaging. Today we have realized that the concept of 'messenger drone' went further and its possibilities are not only within the commercial sphere. And for sample we have the wonderful case of UNICEF, which has just used drones to deliver vaccines in remote areas of Vanuatu.
Joy Nowai, a little girl just a month old, was the first to receive a vaccine that reached her community through a drone, something that until a few days ago was impossible due to complications in the area, which is full of Mountainous areas of difficult access.
The first government contract to use drones as vaccine distributors
Vanuatu is a country located in the South Pacific that is made up of 80 mountainous islands and roads that are very difficult to access, which has meant that today one in five children does not receive the vaccines that correspond to them.
Delivering vaccines in Vanuatu is an extremely difficult task, UNICEF explains, first because vaccines must be stored at specific temperatures to ensure their efficiency; and secondly because traveling to remote areas of Vanuatu requires traveling on foot for several hours, even days, in addition to being managed by qualified personnel.
Given this, UNICEF proposed the idea to the Vanuatu Ministry of Health to use drones to deliver vaccines, to which the agency immediately agreed, giving life to the first official contract of this type. The drones are owned by an Australian company called Swoop Aero, which is responsible for operating them under the direction of UNICEF and the Vanuatu government.
Each drone carries a styrofoam box that contains, in addition to vaccines, ice and electronic sensors to monitor the temperature at all times, to ensure that they arrive in good condition at their destination. Once they arrive, they are greeted by certified nurses who are responsible for supplying the vaccines to the little ones.
During these first tests, which started this past weekend, the drones traveled more than 50 kilometers and landed two meters from the desired destination, that is, everything indicated that it would be a success. So it was. UNICEF accomplished the feat this Monday, December 17:
"The vaccine administration covered nearly 40 kilometers of rugged mountainous terrain from Dillon's Bay on the west side of the island to the east in remote Cook's Bay, where 13 children and five pregnant women were vaccinated by Miriam Nampil, a registered nurse. Cook's Bay is a small and dispersed community that does not have a health or electricity center, which is only accessible on foot or through small local boats. "
Given this, UNICEF indicates that Vanuatu is interested in continuing to use these drones not only to send vaccines, but also to deliver supplies and other types of medications to remote areas that need health care.
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, mentioned:
"Today's first installment of vaccines has enormous potential not only for Vanuatu, but also for the thousands of children around the world who do not have access to vaccines. This is innovation at its best and shows how we can unlock the potential of the private sector for the greater good of the world's children. "