GOOD

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.


Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

Widjifake's struggle is just one of many in a country fraught with healthcare challenges.

"The coverage rate for routine immunization in DRC is extremely low and the Ministry of Health has declared a health emergency to work to improve it," said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, according to SUAS News.

"Coincidently, DRC is experiencing an unprecedented series of deadly disease outbreaks, which are all symptoms of poor coverage, weak health systems, lack of infrastructure, and broader health issues in the country," Berkley continued.

The DRC has worked to solve this health care crisis by launching a campaign called New Generation Supply Chain program or Nouvelle Génération des Chaînes d'Approvisionnement (NGCA). One of the major goals of the NGCA is to reach remote populations in villages such as Widjifake with vaccines and medical supplies.

RELATED: Anti-science mother argues her kids are better off homeschooled than getting immunized

One solution they were eager to test is transporting supplies via drones.

On August 8, the Ministry of Health, VillageReach, Swoop Aero, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, came together to make the first successful delivery of medical supplies to Widjifake via drone.

The drone reaches WidjifakePhoto by Henry Sempangi Senyule

The drone's vertical take-off and landing capability allowed it to easily traverse the DRC's dense jungle and raging rivers to drop down in a clearing at a health center in the village.

The first drone, launched in Mbandaka, took just 20 minutes to travel 40 kilometers (25 miles) to Widjifake and delivered the vaccines at their proper temperature to ensure maximum efficacy.

On the drone's return trip, it brought back lab samples, data collection forms, and requests for medicines needed to Mbandaka.

Most of the villagers in Widjifake has never seen a drone before and marveled as it took to the sky.

On the first day, the drones managed four successful round-trip test flights to deliver a three-month supply of vaccines which were administered to children that day.

Over the next five days, the drones would complete another 50 round-trip flights.

Healthcare workers refrigerate the new delivery. Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

The DRC's Ministry of Health were impressed by the delivery and see drones as a way forward in the battle to increase healthcare access.

"The Ministry of Health welcomes this innovation that facilitates the transport of vaccines and other essential health products through drones to overcome accessibility challenges in Equateur's hard-to-reach communities. This will bring essential health care closer to the population in order to improve universal health coverage," said Yuma Ramazani, Secretary-General for Health, DRC.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

RELATED: These tree-planting drones are firing 'seed missiles' into the ground. Less than a year later, they're already 20 inches tall.

The next big challenge for relief workers is making sure medical supplies are available to be transported.

"Rivers, forests, and difficult roads can be the first barriers to accessing basic health services. If people overcome these geographical barriers, they may find another: a health center without vaccines or essential medicines," Emily Bancroft, CEO of VillageReach, said.

"We believe drones have significant potential to create the responsive, people-centered supply chains that will ensure access to health care for under-reached populations," she continued.

While drones aren't a cure-all the multitude of healthcare problems in the DRC, they've proven to be an effective, safe, and affordable way to bring isolated populations the medical supplies they desperately need.

Olivier Defawe from Drones for Health says the next step involves securing financing for drone programs so they can be expanded.

"As with any viable solution, the need exists to secure continued funding for a long-term investment that would enable its full integration into the health system," Defawe told VillageReach. "Once we secure ongoing capital, all systems are go."

Health
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health