Rwanda to use drones to deliver blood to needy at 400 new destinations

Hospitals waited four hours to receive blood; now reduced to only 15 minutes


RWANDA will start delivering life-saving blood by drones to centers around the country. It has  finalised laying on all the infrastructure and logistics needed to start a new drone port that will ensure increased delivery and destinations  — to 430 hospitals and health centers.

In February 2016, Rwanda Government hired Zipline Inc — a US California-based robotics firm to build the drone port in Shyogwe Sector, Muhanga District – Southern Province in a bid to improve accessibility to blood and emergency medical supplies to remote parts of the country.

Currently, the Shyogwe Drone Port is supplying blood to 18 hospitals from Southern and Western provinces, but a new drone port in Kayonza, Eastern Province will increase the blood delivery 15-fold.

“Kayonza Drone Port is ready for use. We are only waiting for the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) approval to start using the facility,” Dr Saibu Gatare, Division Manager for CNTS, told KT Press on Thursday. Dr Gatare said the center will increase the number of health facilities that are served to 30 hospitals.

Moreover, both drone ports will start supplying blood and medicines to 400 health centers, he said, adding: “For the time being we have started testing drones’ delivery with transport of water instead of blood, and by experience, we are ready to start as soon as we get approval from RCAA.”

Meanwhile, on October 24, a Cabinet Meeting approved an agreement between the Government of Rwanda and Zipline for the delivery of medical products via drones. According to Israel Bimpe,  National Implementation Program Manager at Zippline, the deal for Zipline to supply medical equipment in Rwanda was part of its initial project, but was to be implemented in phases.

“Now as the Government has approved the agreement to supply the medical products we are immediately going to start delivering them in the areas where we deliver blood,” he said.

Using drones in blood delivery is yielding fruits in the remotest health facilities of the country.

Just after launch of the blood delivery by drones by President Paul Kagame on October 14, 2016, the turnout time between ordering and receiving blood was shortened from four hours to 15 minutes on average.

“Some hospitals would take more than three hours to make a round trip to the National Center for Blood Transfusion (CNTS) to access blood,” Dr Gatare said.

–  Reported  by Oswald Niyonzima, KT Press, Rwanda

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