Drones are providing life-saving care to women in remote parts of the southern African country, Botswana, who otherwise may die in childbirth, thanks to support from the United Nations
For women in Botswana, especially those living in remote communities where medical supplies and blood may not be in stock, giving birth can be life-threatening. In 2019, the country recorded a maternal mortality rate of 166 deaths per 100,000 births, more than double the average for upper-middle-income countries.
“When a woman has lost a lot of blood during childbirth and may need to be transferred to a bigger medical facility, she first needs to be stabilized where she is before being driven out of that place. Timely delivery of blood can be lifesaving. A drone can be sent to deliver the blood so that the patient is stabilized,” says Lorato Mokganya, Chief Health Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
In an effort to curb the country’s preventable maternal deaths and overcome geographical barriers this innovative initiative will revolutionize the delivery of essential medical supplies and services across Botswana.
“Timeliness in attending to women who experience pregnancy and childbirth-related complications is paramount, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas,” says Dimane Mpoeleng, Computer Science Lecturer at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).
The leading causes of maternal deaths in Botswana are excessive bleeding, complications after abortion and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.
However, the last-mile delivery of lifesaving medical products and supplies can be challenging in this large and sparsely populated country with long distances between lower and higher-level facilities. This is heightened in hard-to-reach places where there may be a shortage of vehicles, inaccessible roads, and inefficient supply chain systems.
Image: © UNFPA Botswana
A nurse places a cargo of medical supplies in a drone before take-off.