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Kisumu to use drone technology to supply drugs

Kisumu County government has signed an agreement with global instant logistics leader, Zipline, to deliver blood products and medical supplies using drones.

The agreement will see Zipline invest Sh 150 million to establish an operation and distribution hub in Kisumu to facilitate the exercise.

Kisumu Deputy Governor Dr Mathews Owili (left) and Zipline Senior Vice President for Africa Daniel Marfo during the signing of the agreement in Kisumu. Looking on is Kakamega Governor who is also the Chairman of LREB Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo by Chris Mahandara

Zipline Senior Vice President for Africa Daniel Marfo who signed the deal with Kisumu Deputy Governor Dr Mathews Owili said the hub, with a capacity to serve the 14 Lake Region Bloc (LREB) counties shall be fast tracked to ensure that access to healthcare for life threatening illnesses and vaccines is achieved rapidly.

Marfo, said once the hub is in place, the company will leverage on its warehousing and drone technology to ensure timely delivery of drugs and other medical products to health facilities in the area to support the government’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda.

“We have already received clearance from the Ministry of Defence and are now working with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to secure a license to operate in the country,” he said.

Marfo added that as part of the firm’s corporate social responsibility, it will deliver up to one million Covid-19 vaccines free of charge to help accelerate vaccination.

The health facilities, he disclosed, will place orders to the operation centre through email, text message or WhatsApp after which the deliveries shall be made within 45 minutes covering a distance of up to 80 kilometers.

Zipline, he added, has rolled out similar initiatives successfully in Ghana, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the United States of America (USA) adding that the technology was efficient and environment friendly.

Besides drugs and non-pharmaceutical deliveries, the company, he added, has also rolled out delivery of semen and other agricultural products to boost food security.

“We have rolled out delivery of swine and bull semen in Rwanda and we hope to roll out the same here once we are fully operational to boost food security,” he said.

Kisumu, he added, will act as a pilot for the lake region before the partnership is scaled up to cover the other counties serving up to 1, 250 health facilities.

Kisumu County Deputy Governor said the partnership will address inefficiencies in health systems supply by ensuring that commodities are delivered on time.

Through the drone technology, he added remote and hard to reach areas shall be covered to help achieve access to quality medical care in the county. “We have carried out outreach programmes and even tried redistribution of medical supplies but this is still not efficient,” he said.

The project, he added, will further cut on costs incurred to distribute the commodities across the county.

Speaking during the same occasion, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is also the Chairman of LREB lauded the initiative saying it will go a long way in improving service delivery in health and agriculture sectors which are devolved.

The initiative, he added, will also assist county governments in stock management to curb pilferage and wastage. “This will help us to procure what we require. Currently we have a lot of drugs worth billions of shillings in our stores which have expired,” he said.

By Peter K’opiyo and Chris Mahandara

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