Piloting drone technology will be deployed to rural parts of the country carrying life-saving medicines and supplies.
Botswana became the first country in Southern Africa to test drone technology for the delivery of health services. The country has launched the drones for health pilot project and aims to provide maternal health supplies and products including essential drugs for obstetric care, blood, blood products, and laboratory samples, especially in communities and health facilities that are difficult to access. Drone technology has the potential to be a life saving mechanism in the provision of effective healthcare and will reduce the delivery time of essential medicines to rural areas from hours to minutes. Each battery-powered drone has a delivery distance of 100 km, and can carry up to 2 kg of cargo at a time.
The maternal mortality rate in Botswana is almost twice the average for upper-middle-income countries, 144 deaths per 100,000 live births according to 2017 United Nations data and approximately 166 deaths per 100,000 live births as per government data in 2019. The main causes of maternal death are postpartum hemorrhage, post-abortion complications and hypertension during pregnancy - most of which can be treated effectively with medical supplies. However, the delivery of such supplies to outlying areas is often challenging. The identification of innovative solutions to reduce preventable maternal deaths was therefore imperative. Four villages are participating in the pilot project which is being carried out in three phases. The third phase will focus on the expansion of these innovative solutions.