UPS, Zipline and Gavi to create blood delivery drones in Rwanda

American courier UPS is to team up with drone start-up Zipline and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance to deliver life-saving supplies to Rwandan health clinics.

The collaboration, set to be rolled out across Rwanda later this year, will utilize Zipline drones to deliver blood to and from 21 transfusing facilities located in the western part of the country.

Although initially focusing on the delivery of life-saving blood units, the aim is to expand the initiative to deliver vaccines and medicines nationwide for some of the country’s most prevalent diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. If successful, the model may represent a replicable platform for other developing countries.

“The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year. The work of this partnership will help solve that problem once and for all,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “With the expertise and vision of UPS, Gavi and Zipline, instant drone delivery will allow us to save thousands of lives in a way that was never possible before.”

Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi Vaccine Alliance CEO, emphasised the initiative’s innovative method of delivering vaccines to remote communities, allowing for “a safe, effective way to make vaccines available for some of the hardest-to-reach children.”

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that the African continent has the highest death rate associated with excessive bleeding post childbirth, highlighting the importance of the new delivery approach. In addition around 90% of health complaints in Rwanda relate to transmissible diseases, according to WHO figures.

The UPS Foundation has awarded an $800,000 grant to support the project’s launch in Rwanda.

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