By Yunus Yusuf
Zipline, a health-tech drone-delivery company, says it has launched the world’s largest medical drone delivery network in Ghana.
According to Florence Haruna, Zipline’s Performance Operations Head, the company now delivers more than 200 different vaccines, blood products and medications to 2,500 health facilities with its reach serving nearly 22 million people.
Haruna spoke during a tour of its facility in Omanako, Accra, Ghana on Saturday.
She said that the health-tech drone-delivery company, which began operations in Ghana in 2019 with four service centers, planned to get additional four service centers before the year ends.
This move will make us the world’s largest autonomous medical drone delivery service in Ghana, Haruna said.
“Today, Zipline launched the world’s largest medical drone delivery network at Omenako in the Eastern Region of Ghana and other three service centers,” she said.
According to her, many rural communities within Ghana now have access to medical facilities, including Yellow Fever and COVID-19 vaccination delivered by a Zipline drone.
“Dedicated to providing every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies, Zipline employs aerospace veterans from SpaceX, Google, Boeing and NASA to design and operate its autonomous systems, which can deliver a package within 30 minutes after a health-care worker places an order by text.
“Zipline’s drones take off and land from its distribution centres.
“So much of the conversation these days is about this growing idea that tech is not benefiting a vast majority of people.
“We really want to show that the right technology company with the right mission can help every person on the planet,” she said.
Haruna said that access to vital health products worldwide had historically hampered the difficulty of supplying medicine from central storage to remotely located patients when and where they need it.
“In far too many other areas, the same problem means that people in need of lifesaving care do not get the medicine they need to survive.
“In Ghana, the company will make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products and medications and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from four distribution centres.
“Each centre will be equipped with 30 drones and deliver to 2,000 health facilities, serving 12 million people across the country. Each Zipline distribution center has the capacity to make up to 500 flights each day.
“The exciting thing about this is that the technology has finally scaled to a point where we can talk about a country achieving universal access to health care.
“The thing that people have consistently underestimated about Zipline, and that which is most special about the company, is that we have been able to hire fully local teams — brilliant flight engineers and flight operators and fulfillment operators.
“They have been able to do what some of the richest technology companies in the world have set out to do and failed,” she said.
Haruna said that the company was working to expand drone delivery services to developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
She said Zipline drone network had been integrated into the national healthcare supply chain in Ghana and would help prevent vaccine stockouts in health facilities as well as during national immunisation campaigns.
She said that was one of the ways the government was working to ensure inclusiveness through the use of technology to advance national development, improve ways things were done in offices and improve citizens access to public services wherever they live.
He said Ghanaians were excited because the government was using technology to increase the access of Ghanaians to one of the basic public services that every citizen deserves.
She added that the use of technology is to solve a major problem in the country’s health delivery service to those in remote areas who cannot be reached easily by roads.
This, she said, would help save the lives of people who would have otherwise lost their lives through childbirth, snake bites, accidents, and other life-threatening emergencies.
Haruna said that Zipline also engaged various communities on sensitisation programmes to educate them on their operations and the need to support the delivery system.
She said that in the future, the company would also consider delivery to private hospitals and other individual organisations that show interest.
A Nigerian pharmacist, Mr Samuel Noma (27), from Lere Local Government Area in Kaduna State. commended Zipline for its initiative toward bringing the service to his state.
Noma, who is the Fulfillment Operator at Zipline in Ghana, said that he was on training, pending when the company would commence operations in Kaduna State.
He said: “This process is going to be impactful in our communities and also save lives.
“This will reduce the stress of travelling miles to the cities to get drugs and medication for rural communities.
“The service is seamless and effective. I urge Nigerian government at all levels to embrace this channel of medical delivery system,” he said.
Mr Frank Wunu, Deputy Chief Physician Assistant at Apedwa Health Center in Eastern Region, Accra, Ghana, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Zipline had saved many lives through the process of effective medical service delivery.
He said that the process had saved them over 200 Ghanaian cedis weekly on transportation to city, adding that more patients now have access to medical facilities.
“This process has saved lives of mothers and children in the community, ” Wunu said.