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As you read this, drones are making emergency deliveries of vaccines, blood products and life-saving medications. What’s remarkable is that this scene is playing out in Ghana.
The story began in Rwanda in 2016. In a groundbreaking collaboration between The UPS Foundation, Gavi and Zipline, life-saving medical supplies began reaching Rwandan patients in minutes - rather than hours or days - even in the most remote communities.
After a successful launch in 2016, the program expanded across the rest of Rwanda, surpassing 13,000 deliveries. Drones now deliver two-thirds of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of Kigali, the capital.
All too often, critical health products spoil or fail to reach the individuals who urgently need them. The on-demand service allows healthcare facilities to reduce stock on hand and order what they need when they need it. As a result, less stocked blood will go unused before its expiration date, reducing waste and increasing usage efficiency.
Building on the success in Rwanda, drones in Ghana will make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 high-priority products. When fully operational, the service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and deliver to more than 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.
The UPS Foundation provided $2.4 million in funding, and UPS is providing an additional $600,000 of in-kind support. Separately, UPS started an analysis of Ghana’s nationwide healthcare supply chain, providing expertise designed to complement the government’s vision to continually optimize the delivery of healthcare products.
In Ghana, UPS will provide technical guidance and consultancy services as needed, in consultation with Gavi and collaboratively with Zipline.
Bringing a cutting-edge technology solution to remote villages in Ghana and Rwanda takes plenty of work. Yet, it shows the transformative power of public-private partnerships, collaborative efforts fueled by diverse organizations made up of people from different backgrounds.
As a global company serving more than 220 countries and territories, UPS has developed a vast network of connections to public and private organizations, non-profit agencies seeking to serve global communities and businesses looking to solve the world’s most daunting challenges.
Recently, UPS made history as the first company in the U.S., together with partner Matternet, to use drones on a daily basis for revenue-generating flights. The program is taking place at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus near Raleigh, North Carolina, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation.
"Partnerships create a pathway that none of us alone can replicate."
The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.
Healthcare and life sciences is a priority segment for UPS as we deliver better patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain solutions.
Our efforts are often collaborative, and we frequently bring together organizations with shared purpose to develop life-enhancing or life-saving solutions.
The support we provide ranges from front-line logistics coordination for humanitarian relief operations to disaster preparedness training for small businesses to helping communities rebound from devastating events by providing funding for non-profit relief and hands-on support.
We’ve found that when we bring the right organizations and the right individuals together, we create a pathway that none of us alone can replicate.
Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Humbly, I would add that when not only a small group of citizens gets together but also large and well-connected public and private organizations like UPS and Gavi align, real change happens.
Ultimately, our collective goal is to make big social change … and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
[Images: Gavi / Isaac Griberg]
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