Maputo — Mozambique’s National Health Institute (INS) on Friday launched the second phase of a study on the use of drones to transport medical samples and equipment to and from remote areas.
Under the project, the drones will deliver tests, vaccines, and other emergency supplies to hard to reach health facilities with the return flights bringing back samples for testing for infectious diseases such as Covid-19, tuberculosis, and HIV.
The project will take place in the southern province of Inhambane in a partnership between the INS, logistics experts Swoop Aero, and the non-governmental organisation VillageReach.
According to the National Director of Public Health Laboratories in the INS, Sofia Viegas, “with this study, we hope to obtain pleasing results to improve the efficiency in the national health system, regarding the care of the population in areas that are difficult to access”.
She added that the first phase of the study showed promising results regarding the safety and feasibility of using drones for transporting samples of Covid-19 and tuberculosis.
In this second phase, lab samples will be collected daily leading to a quicker diagnosis of infectious diseases and the faster treatment of patients. About 100,000 people are expected to benefit directly from the project.
VillageReach Country Director Rotafina Donco pointed out that “the drones offer progress in epidemiological disease surveillance and early detection of outbreaks. This becomes especially important for underreached communities at the last mile. It also creates more equitable access to rapid diagnosis and treatment for rural populations, fulfilling the promise of primary health care services for all”.
The Drones for Health programme in Inhambane forms part of a multi-phase approach to establishing routine drone operations in Mozambique. The first phase took place in Maputo province between 2018 and 2020 during which 140 laboratory samples of Covid-19 were transported with a total airtime of ten hours. This confirmed that drone transport does not compromise the quality of laboratory samples compared to ground transport.
Set up in 1975, the year of Mozambican independence, the INS is the body which manages, regulates and inspects all activities concerned with the production of scientific evidence in the health area.