By: Joan Balinda
In the last two months, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, donated to Rwanda’s Ministry of health 5 high-tech robots with the capacity to screen 50 to 150 people per minute to be used in COVID-19 treatment centers.
Acquired through ZoraBots Africa Ltd, the five anti-epidemic robots – given the Rwandan names of Akazuba, Ikirezi, Mwiza, Ngabo, and Urumuri – have the ability to recognize the face, screen body temperature, deliver food and medication to patients’ rooms, monitor their status and alert officer on duty when there is a need for a human presence in the room.
“Medics and other front-liners visit patients’ rooms many times to deliver medication, meals, carry out tests, among other things and this may pose a risk of contracting the virus, so the idea of using the robots is aimed at reducing exposure of health workers to possible Covid-19 infection” said Dr Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health, speaking to media.
COVID-19 calls for technological innovations due to the contagious nature of the pandemic. The smart mobile robots improved the rapidity and quality of services provided to patients infected by coronavirus and allowed healthcare providers to follow-up several patients at once as the numbers of cases continue to rise.
Rwanda had also introduced high-tech initiatives like drones that were used to raise awareness on the coronavirus pandemic in local communities during the lockdown. All these efforts and many more are put together to enhance efficiency in handling the pandemic and provide quality healthcare to Rwandans and residents of Rwanda, one of the pillars of the country’s Vision 2050 “quality of life”.
Using new technologies in the health sector is not new in Rwanda. The country has been using drone technology by Zipline ever since 2016 to deliver urgent blood supplies to hospitals, cutting down delivery time from hours to minutes. In today’s developing world, access to lifesaving and critical health products is hampered by what is known as the last-mile problem, which is the inability to deliver needed medicine from a city to rural or remote locations due to lack of adequate transportation and/or communication. In Rwanda, postpartum haemorrhaging was among the leading causes of death for women. However, the use of innovative technology, like drones, has been a key factor in the success of the health sector, as it has contributed to the drop in maternal mortality ratio to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Coronavirus, a viral pandemic that since early this year has affected millions of lives and created a challenge for the global community, has also been a reminder that technology can be a great tool to save lives. New technologies used in the health sector are expensive and some of them may take time from being implemented, but in countries like Rwanda well known for their desire for innovation, and willingness to develop solutions to complex development challenges, sacrifices, no matter how big, were made to save people’s lives.