Medical drone delivery project to service remote communities in Uganda

Advancements in modern medicine allow for multitudes of medical problems to be managed by the individuals who live with them, but what good are these advancements to those living in remote areas if they aren’t accessible?

Ensuring that remote communities have equitable access to modern treatments is one of the biggest hurdles that global health faces today. A new pilot project in Uganda aims to solve this issue by using medical drones to deliver lifesaving medications from Bugumira Health Center III to the Kalangala district.

Uganda’s Kalangala district is made up of 84 islands in Lake Victoria and is one of the most inaccessible communities in the region. It also has a high HIV prevalence rate of 18 percent, which greatly surpasses the national rate of 5.6 percent.

Getting critical antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and healthcare to this region isn’t easy to coordinate; healthcare workers can only access Kalangala by boat, so the completion of the trip is dependent on favorable weather conditions. Andrew Kambugu, executive director at Makerere University Infectious Disease Institute (IDI), says that the drones will potentially “[close] that last mile of delivery and [ensure] that people living in remote communities have… access to modern treatments for HIV.”

Uganda’s ministry of health, the Academy for Health Innovation, and IDI worked together on the pilot project at Bufumira, which successfully carried ARVs to over 1,000 people living with HIV. The program will continue to send drones on 20 scheduled flights per month to 78 community groups and health facilities throughout the islands.

The aim of this program, as well as other drone distribution and delivery projects taking place in African countries such as Rwanda and Ghana, is to provide research opportunities and data to analyze and quantify the efficacy of drones for bringing medications to the people that need them most. All of the studies conducted with the information available through these programs will be used to inform how drone technology progresses and how to adequately respond to emergencies.

Source Image: Makerere University Infectious Disease Institute

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