Drones Successfully Deliver Contraceptives to Women in Rural Ghana

Drones In AfricaRecently, a drone successfully delivered sunscreen to a tech conference in Palm Springs. Last year, Dominos Pizza tested its Pizza delivery service to families in New Zealand using a drone. Drones are in the air to make life easy for all, but most importantly, they can now be used to save lives.

A study from October 2016 showed that drones could also carry defibrillators to heart attack victims 16 minutes faster than an ambulance. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association after researchers simulated an emergency situation 18 times and on every simulation, the drone was faster than an ambulance.

Drones are also improving the lives of families in Sub Saharan Africa.  Last year, Faustina Fynn-Nyame of Marie Stopes International—a reproductive health care non-profit—told a story at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark about a Ghanaian mother who wanted only four children but later had seven.
She talked about how the Government and non-profits have let down women in rural areas who have no means of getting contraception.

In remote African villages, a flood can shut down access roads for days and stop medical supplies from reaching communities. This is one of the issues that some public health experts and philanthropists were wrestling with in late 2014 when it occurred to them that drones could be used in such dire situations.

The United Nations Population Fund joined forces with the Ghana Health Service and the Dutch government to create a successful drone program called Dr. One. This pilot program has been successfully delivering condoms, birth control, and other medical supplies to some hard-to-reach areas in Ghana using 5-foot-wide drones.

Since its inception, it has expanded into six other African countries and hopefully, it will revolutionize women’s health and family planning across Africa.  A drone packed with contraceptives and medical supplies is piloted to a rural area that is difficult to access by road. On its arrival, a local health worker takes delivery of the supplies.

This has made deliveries faster and more reliable said Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist at the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali, Indonesia. Sunkutu stated that contraceptive delivery to these rural areas used to take two days, but now takes only 30 minutes.”

Access to birth control is a huge problem in African rural areas, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, where as low as 20% of women are on modern contraceptives. The WHO estimates that 225 million women in developing countries would prefer to postpone or stop pregnancies, but because they lack reliable birth control methods, there is a higher rate of unplanned pregnancies in these areas. This subsequently deters women and girls from getting an education. It is also estimated that about 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions.

Using drones will improve the lives of families not only in rural areas but all over the world. In June 2016, an organization known as Women on Waves used a drone to supply medically approved abortion pills from Germany to Poland. The flight was simply to raise awareness about Poland’s prohibitive abortion laws.

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