By Nasra Bishumba
Following the Government’s partnership with Charis Unmanned Aerial Solutions, a local drone technology company, Rwanda will, today, for the very first time begin using drones to rid communities of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The initiative, which will be launched in Jabana, in Gasabo District, will complement a set of existing strategies to prevent and combat malaria in the country.
According to the Ministry of Health, the initiative that will “greatly contribute to achieving zero malaria in Rwanda.”
Each drone, fitted with a 10-litre tank carrying insecticide, will follow a pre-mapped route and sprays over vast mosquito breeding sites like swamps larvae, which mostly live in stagnant water.
In a interview last year, the company’s Chief Executive Officer; Eric Rutayisire Muziga, told The New Times that the drones have the capacity to fly for about 15 minutes on a single battery and ability to spray an area of 40 hectares in a day.
The Division Manager for malaria and other parasitic diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC); Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, said that the drone technology will bring more benefits in the fight against malaria.
“The same technology has been used in other countries to control mosquitoes. The drone technology will help us to reach certain areas where conventional pump sprayers could not reach, including in marshlands, rice paddies and other fields,” he said.
Currently, the Ministry of Health conducts only indoor residual spraying across the country once in a year.
Information from the Ministry of Health indicates that simple malaria cases increased from about a million in 2012 to 4.5 million in 2016 rise while severe malaria cases increased from 9,000 to 17,000 during the same period.
However, preliminary data from RBC shows that total malaria cases dropped to below 4 million by end 2018.
This is the latest initiative where Rwanda has deployed drone technology to save lives.
In 2016, Zipline, a US-based company launched its activities in Rwanda, delivering blood to different hospitals in the country.
This was the first time globally that drone technology was being deployed to make drops of vital blood and other medical supplies to hospitals.
Currently, it operates two distribution centres; one in Muhanga district and another one Kayonza District, giving it the reach of almost all major hospitals in the country.
Using Rwanda as a model, Zipline has since launched its second operation in Ghana, with four distribution centres, supplying at least 2,500 health facilities.