- Nyamira County is the second to enter into a partnership with Zipline drones technologies after Kisumu County three months ago.
- The drone services are way cheaper and faster than emergency ambulatory services to far-flung areas.
- The box carrying the supplies also has airbags fitted from the inside to prevent the commodities from being damaged during a drop.
Nyamira County has become the second county in Kenya to embrace the use of drone technology in the health sector to deliver medical products such as medicines to its far-flung facilities for emergencies.
The program was launched on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at Chepng’ombe health center in Esise ward, Borabu constituency.
Kisumu County was the first county to use drone technology in its health services sector.
Nyamira County is the second to enter into a partnership with Zipline drones technologies after Kisumu County three months ago.
Zipline International Inc., an American company, designs, manufactures and operates delivery drones. It started in 2014 and offers instant deliveries of services using drones.
Zipline in Kenya is the firm contracted to offer the services.
The company has been successful in four countries in Africa: Rwanda, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Kenya has become the fifth to embrace the use of the advanced medical transportation mode which, according to the Zipline Country General Manager Winfred Njeri, is the fastest way to address medical emergencies compared to any other form of transport.
“Zipline drone technology is at the verge of revolutionizing healthcare deliveries and attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya,” said Njeri.
The company’s distribution warehouse is established in Chemelil in Kisumu County. It is the first ever in the country and the fifth in Africa, with a state-of-the-art storage facility for medicine and medical products.
It also supports the county governments in storing and distributing medical commodities.
According to Njeri, the company does last-mile delivery of medical products like vaccines, blood, and emergency products and accesses most remote areas within a county.
“From Chemelil, the drones cover a radius of 100 kilometres one way on air, taking a maximum of 45 minutes to get to the furthest place of Nyamira like in Chepng’ombe in Esise ward, Borabu constituency, which is the furthest place so far,” said Njeri.
The drones are capable of accessing remote and impassable areas by road and are efficient in their deliveries.
She added that the technology ensures there is no wastage of commodities as deliveries are made on the order of the commodities needed at one time.
This, she noted, will enable counties to save a lot due to minimal or no wastage of medicines or commodities.
“You only order what you need, which means counties will save a lot of millions in expiries which are regularly experienced.
We are able to redistribute those products to the facilities that need them; facilities will be ordering what they need,” she said.
The drone is capable of flying in all weather and around the clock, with a carrying capacity of up to 3kgs of medical products.
Dr.Timothy Ombati, Nyamira County Executive Committee Member, said during the launch of the drone services that they have come at the right time to address emergency issues and cover-up time taken on the road, making it easy to handle emergency situations.
He said the program is faster and more efficient and will help reduce or end deaths related to the unavailability of instant emergency services.
“The drone will be more helpful in the emergency unit. It takes less time to deliver medical supplies compared to use of vehicles which normally poses a challenge when emergencies require very urgent intervention,” explained Dr. Ombati.
The CECM added that they had entered into a three-month proof of concept agreement with the firm, after which the county government will enter into a commercial agreement.
He noted the services are way cheaper than emergency ambulatory services to far-flung areas.
“We will continue partnering for the next three months, which will be proof of concept and after that, we will enter into a commercial agreement of how we will be paying for the services,” added Dr. Ombati.
According to him, the introduction of drones is an excellent achievement for the county and the Department of Health, a breakthrough in addressing emergencies, a long journey that has finally come to pass.
Nyamira Governor, Amos Nyaribo, said that the start of the program is one of the fulfilled pledges made to streamline the health sector and bring services close to the residents.
He added that health is among the sectors that his government prioritizes to enable the county to spur economic growth.
“This is one of the fulfilled visions of my government to employ modern technology in the health sector to ensure that emergency services are availed to the interior places of the county and in real-time.
This is among other departments that I prioritize to ensure that we have a healthy population to spur economic growth, ” said Nyaribo.
During the launch, residents were treated to a spectacular air show as five drones, propelled from 100 km away at Chemelil base, jetted into the airspace of Riang’ombe village to Chepng’ombe Health Center while dropping their demonstration cargo right in their midst.
The drones took 45 minutes from their base to their destination, flying at an interval of 5 minutes apart, with the first one dropping its load a few minutes to 1 p.m.
The drones do not land but drop their luggage box, which is fitted with a parachute to offer the medical supplies a soft landing.
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The box carrying the supplies also has airbags fitted from the inside to prevent the commodities from being damaged during a drop.