In Africa, about 850 women die every day during pregnancy or childbirth. Part of the problem is that many women give birth at home, far from a hospital or clinic. But even those who give birth under the care of doctors and nurses are at risk due to the lack of basic medical equipment, medicine and blood for transfusions. In Rwanda, the East African country of more than 11 million people, postpartum hemorrhaging is the leading cause of maternal death.
But drones are on deck to deliver the one thing that can prevent these deaths: blood.
Zipline, a California-based robotics company, has partnered with UPS, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Rwandan government to launch the country's first drone delivery service. As of today, a fleet of 15 drones located in the Muhanga District have come online to fly packages of blood to 21 transfusing facilities. Each craft can carry a cargo upwards of 3 1/2 pounds and because the drone port is centrally located amid the facilities, it's no more than 30 minutes away from saving a life.
Although drone deliveries are still trying to make airtime in the United States, they were given the green light in Rwanda because the airspace is practically wide-open and the need for saving lives is great. According to the World Health Organization, 325 pregnant women per 100,000 die every year, many from hemorrhaging.
But having blood on hand to treat the condition is difficult. Blood spoils easily and transporting it even short distances can be incredibly challenging in a country where a rainstorm can wash out a road.