Ngami, Okavango Get Drones For Health Project

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In an effort to overcome challenges and other barriers impeding provision of services to communities across the district, the Ngami District Health Management Team (DHMT) will in December be the first to implement phase two of use of drones for supply and distribution of health commodities between clinics.

The drone for health project is collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), the United Nations Population Fund, and Dutch drone company Avy. Phase one of the project which was mainly for piloting was implemented in Palapye in May 2021.

Presenting during the North West Dictrict full council meeting this week, Ngami DHMT head, Dr Sandrah Maripe revealed that the project will be implemented in Ngami and Okavango’s areas that are not easily accessible.

 “In Ngami the project will be implemented from Letsholathebe to Mababe, Sankoyo, Kareng and Somelo while in Okavango the project will be implemented from Gumare to Xaxa, Qangwa, Nxainxau, Shakawe, Seronga, Beetsha and Gudigwa,” she told council.

Maripe indicated that the drones will contribute significantly to the reduction of time to deliver commodities between clinics adding that emergency deliveries will be handled within a short period of time.

She explained that the drones address terrain constrains such as poor road conditions, challenges of limited resources and improve specimen delivery to the testing laboratories after collection hence resulting in specimen quality being assured.

The coordinator noted that the technical team has already been formed adding that the scoping of the district’s facilities has also already been done.

“The technical team has travelled to Rwanda and Scotland to benchmark and a capacity building workshop for the team has been conducted while involvement and engagement of the community to understand the importance of drones is currently underway,” Dr Maripe noted.

For his part, Deputy Drones Coordinator and Health Information Officer Senka Matengu explained that for phase two implementation they will use a drone which can take up to 10 kilogrammes maximum consignment but with time as the project progresses to other phases they will use a drone that supports up to 120kg.

He emphasised that the drone project has already been tested in Palapye and that this is a transition to phase two to transport real commodity.

“We conducted the piloting project in Palapye which deemed fruitful though we did not transport real health commodity however in phase two we will be transporting real health commodities such as laboratory samples, this basically proves that the project implementation has long commenced last year,” Matengu said.

He added that they have already conducted logistical arrangements where drones will land in these remote areas. Matengu explained the drones which are estimated to cost around P2 million each will use satellite communication and it will constantly send communication to the base station.

“It will be operated by a trained and certified pilot. The drone’s security will be taken in seriousness of an aircraft, and before it departs from one location permission will be granted by the Civil Aviation Authority,” Matengu further explained.

He indicated that to ensure that the drones are not vandalised, the team has embarked on a community engagement workshop to teach people about their importance.

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