Drones have made 13,000 deliveries of medical supplies in Rwanda © Gavi/2018/Karel Prinsloo
Drones have made 13,000 deliveries of medical supplies in Rwanda © Gavi/2018/Karel Prinsloo

Ghana launches world’s largest drone delivery network for vaccines

25 April 2019

Drones are to deliver life-saving medical supplies to millions of people in Ghana, through hundreds of hospitals and health clinics, in the world’s biggest drone delivery network for vaccines, it was announced yesterday.

Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company, will use drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 high priority products including emergency and routine vaccines, blood products and life-saving medicines. 

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from four distribution centres, each equipped with 30 drones, and deliver to more than 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the UPS Foundation are backing the project to help the government of Ghana integrate the drone network into the country’s national healthcare supply chain.

Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said: “The ability of the government to supplement routine immunisation on demand will allow us to make sure that there will always be enough life-saving vaccines for every child in Ghana.”

He added: “This is an exciting development for Gavi that is ultimately going to ensure we leave no one behind and help us protect more children living in remote areas against vaccine preventable diseases.”

The UPS Foundation is providing US$3m funding for the project, which is also being supported by the Gates Foundation and Pfizer.

The new initiative in Ghana has been prompted by the success of a drone delivery project in Rwanda, involving the UPS Foundation, Gavi, and Zipline. This has provided access to life-saving medical supplies in minutes rather than hours for millions of Rwandan citizens in remote communities. It started in 2016 in the Muhanga District and has since been expanded by the government of Rwanda to cover the whole country. Drones have made 13,000 deliveries in Rwanda to date and deliver more than 65% of the country's blood supply outside of the capital, Kigali.

Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation, said: “The program’s ongoing success in Rwanda demonstrates that the collective effort of a public-private partnership focused on advanced supply chain technologies can enhance access to life-saving medical commodities throughout Africa.”

He commented: “We are inspired to see technology and supply chain expertise used to help save lives and honoured to be part of this public-private collaboration.”

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