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Botswana launches Drone for Health project

Botswana International University of Science and technology (BIUST) has piloted a Drone for Health project to enhance distribution of healthcare services to remote areas.

The project was devised in 2018 by the University’s commercial drones team comprising engineers and scientists focused on commercialising technology, with support from the government and the United Nations (UN).

Drone for Health is a collaboration between BIUST, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Health and Wellness Ministry to address logistic challenges involved in dispensing medicines and healthcare services to people in remote regions, including cost.

BIUST Vice Chancellor Professor Otlogetswe Totolo said the project is being funded by the UNFPA at a cost of half a million Pula and it is a demonstration of maturing science, technology innovation and infrastructure: “The department of Computer Science and Information system is at the forefront of technical development of the use of drones technology to aid the healthcare sector.”

The Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Edwin Dikoloti said the project will assist in distributing medical supplies, such as blood products and essential medicine for malaria and snake anti-venom, more effectively.

Dr Dikoloti said the innovation will bridge the long distances, reduce transportation costs, overcome road infrastructure challenges and improve timely availability of essential emergency obstetric care drugs, commodities and supplies.

Beatrice Mutali, Director at UNFPA Botswana, said Botswana is the first country in Southern Africa to adopt drone technology for healthcare delivery at a large scale and only the third country in Africa.

Mutali did not provide statistics, but said the pilot project also looks to address the need for medical services promises to alleviate the maternal deaths situation in Botswana, through delivering medical supplies relating to childbirth on time.

Meanwhile BIUST is developing a dynamic drone delivery logistics framework, which will be adoptable to deployment of aerial deliveries of almost any operations, such as wildlife monitoring, veterinary medical deliveries, law enforcement and land surveying, to help create accurate maps construction projects and land development.

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