Future-proofing Botswana healthcare

In this client case, we explore the logistical challenges that come with last-mile delivery of lifesaving medical products in Botswana because of its size and sparse population. We dive into the Drones for Health project being the possible solution to these and proving that the Avy Aera can be a faster means of reaching rural communities.

Avy Aera BVLOS flight in Botswana for Drones for Health project

The last mile challenge

According to the UNFPA, the country of Botswana has a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) that comes close to double the average for upper-middle income countries, at 166 maternal deaths/100,000 live births. In 2017, the Botswana government has set a national MMR target to lower the ratio down to 71/100,000 by 2025 and 54/100,000 by 2030.

Timeliness to attend to women experiencing pregnancy and childbirth-related complications is critical, especially for those living in remote and hard-to-reach areas. Health facilities need to be fully equipped with the supplies needed to deal with time-sensitive emergencies and skills to provide lifesaving emergency care.

With Botswana being a large and sparsely populated country, long distances between health facilities can get in the way of last-mile delivery of lifesaving medical products and supplies. This becomes more challenging in hard-to-reach places where communities are disconnected and cannot be served sufficiently by the current healthcare system, in part due to shortage of vehicles, lack of resources and inaccessible roads depending on the season.

The need to invest in innovative options to bridge the long distances, reduce current transportation costs, overcome road infrastructure challenges, and improve timely availability of essential emergency obstetric care drugs, commodities and supplies is therefore urgent
Dr. Edwin Gorataone Dikoloti, Botswana’s Minister of Health and Wellness
Rural communities of Botswana for Drones for Health project
Beauties of Botswana

Drones for Health as a solution

The Drones for Health project takes to the skies. Initiated by BIUST (Botswana International University of Science and Technology) and UNFPA, with strong support from the Ministry of Health, Avy was selected as the technology partner for the drone system. This project aims to accelerate reduction of preventable maternal deaths by delivering maternal health supplies and commodities including essential emergency obstetric care drugs, blood and blood products and laboratory specimens in a timely manner to communities and health facilities that are hard-to-reach.

The areas targeted for this pilot are Lecheng, Mokgware, Mogapi and Moremi in the Palapye region. The scope will widen based on the circumstances and when and how the Ministry of Health & Wellness wants to proceed.

Building Mogapi droneport for Drones for Health project
Community of Mogapi building their droneport

Successful completion of Phase I

During Phase 1 of the Drones for Health project, the Avy team on the ground worked closely with the BIUST drone team and the District Health Management Team of the Palapye region.

Community sensitisation was done a month prior to the project to engage key decision makers including the Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Health and Wellness, other government agencies and most importantly, the local communities. This phase is critical to explore stakeholder acceptance and the potential costs and benefits of the project.

According to the Evidence Generation Toolkit, a joint publication created VillageReach and UPDWG, the first phase includes testing in local conditions and performing technology demonstrations. Once these initial activities were conducted, it was time to monitor the performance of Avy Aera in local conditions and its feasibility through safe, repeated transport of public health commodities.

Outcome

  • Total flights flown: 22
  • Maximum distance flown: 47km
  • Max speed: 125km/hr
  • Total km flown: 620km
  • Transported: .5kg of samples (including med box weight)

Transport time - car vs. drone

  • BIUST to Lecheng clinic - 35mins vs. 12mins → 34% faster
  • BIUST to Mogkware clinic - 80mins vs. 26 mins → 33% faster
  • BIUST to Moremi - 78mins vs. 27 mins → 35% faster
  • Moremi clinic to Mogapi - 57mins vs. 37mins → 65% faster
Avy pilot with Lecheng nurse at droneport
Avy pilot teaching Lecheng nurse how to place medical payload into Avy Aera
Avy Aeras ready to send it during launch of drones for health project
Avy Aera ready to send it at BIUST droneport
Auterion mission planner for BVLOS flight
Avy Aera flight from Moremi clinic to Mogapi - Powered by Auterion

Completion of phase I

Catch a glimpse behind the scenes of Phase I of the project

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Now that safety, feasibility and acceptability of the drone have been proven, phase 2 will measure the effectiveness of the Avy Aera and its efficiency compared to current modes of ground transport over the course of several months. Phase 2 takes into account potential supply chain performance and studies the health impacts the drone has on local communities.

Sources

UNFPA

UAS Generation Evidence Toolkit by VillageReach & UPDWG