Today the National Health Institute (INS), the Health Sector of Inhambane, VillageReach and Swoop Aero, started the second phase of the study for the use of drones to transport laboratory samples for infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, HIV, and medical products. This study, called Drones for Health Phase 2, will last six months and take place in four district hospitals and three health facilities in the districts of Mabote, Inhassoro, Guvuro, and Vilanculos, in the province of Inhambane, in southern Mozambique.
Daily flights to selected health facilities will provide timely access to laboratory tests, vaccines and other emergency supplies in an effort to support the response to public health emergencies and improve medical and drug assistance for the rural population.
“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. The first phase of the study showed promising results for what was our goal, which was to verify the sample quality, safety and feasibility of using drones in the transportation of samples of COVID-19 and tuberculosis. Today we are encouraged because we have started the second phase, whose scope is wider and the medical products to be transported are diversified,” said Sofia Viegas, National Director of Public Health Laboratories of the INS.
By introducing the daily collection of laboratory samples via drone, we expect a quicker diagnosis of infectious diseases, leading to faster treatment of patients. About 100,000 people are expected to benefit directly from this study in the region.
With the two-way capability of the aircraft, deliveries of health products, including drugs, reagents, samples, and other supplies, can be expedited and the shortage of laboratory test kits, immunization kits, and other health products in these communities can be avoided.
The Drones for Health program in Inhambane is part of the multi-phase approach to establish routine drone operations in Mozambique. The first phase took place in Maputo province between 2018-2020 and covered the generation of evidence on the potential benefits and costs of drone transport. This included a study, led by INS that transported 140 laboratory samples of COVID-19, 160 tuberculosis samples, flying a total of 10 hours in the air, while the tuberculosis samples were transported by ground in parallel. The study validated the assumption that drone transport does not comprise the quality of laboratory samples compared to ground transport. The INS recommended future studies at the national level to allow validation of the use of drones in real-world conditions, leading to the launch of Drones for Health Phase 2, in Inhambane province.
“We are very pleased to continue expanding operations in Mozambique to increase our reach and impact in the region. These operations bring us closer to meeting our impact goal, which is to provide an integrated drone logistics service to 100 million people by 2025 and reach one billion people by 2030,” said Eric Peck, CEO of Swoop Aero.
Focusing Philanthropy and its community of donors for this campaign provided the funding for Phase 2 of the program. INS, VillageReach, and health partners in Inhambane are seeking funding for the continuation and expansion in Inhambane and other areas.
As the progression of drone integration into the health care system in Mozambique is implemented, greater access to health care for Mozambicans becomes possible through better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases and other ailments.