By Ishveena Singh 

This month, Botswana became the first country in southern Africa, and the third in Africa, to begin the use of medical delivery drones. Their aim? To bring down maternal mortality by delivering life-saving health supplies to hard-to-reach communities in a timely manner.

The initiative, called “Drones for Health,” has been made possible through a collaboration between Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Unlike Ghana and Rwanda, where US-based drone company Zipline has been delivering on-demand medical supplies to remote areas, the drone delivery ecosystem platform for Botswana has been developed in partnership with Dutch drone engineering company Avy.

The Avy Aera drone can travel a distance of 100 km on a single charge, carrying cargo weighing up to 2 kg. An uber-cool, interactive flight simulation page will show you three drones taking off from a BIUST drone port and flying to different communities of Botswana.

medical drone delivery botswana
The medical delivery drone Botswana is using

How medical delivery drones can prevent maternal mortality in Botswana

Botswana’s maternal mortality numbers are worryingly high. At 166 deaths per 100,000 live births, the country’s maternal mortality ratio is almost double the average for upper-middle-income countries.

Postpartum hemorrhage, complications after abortion, and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy are some of the chief causes of concern. Medication can effectively treat these conditions, but in this large and sparsely populated country, delivery of such medical supplies is often a challenge. A shortage of vehicles, inaccessible roads, and inefficient supply chain systems only add to the problem.

As such, Dr. Edwin Gorataone Dikoloti, Botswana’s minister of health and wellness, insists:

The need to invest in innovative options to bridge the long distances, reduce current transportation costs, overcome road infrastructure challenges, and improve the timely availability of essential emergency obstetric care drugs, commodities, and supplies is urgent.

medical drone delivery botswana