In December, a one-month-old baby in Vanuatu became the world’s first child to be given a vaccine delivered by a drone. Now, this drone has made it to the United Nations’ Top Five Technologies list.
The state-of-the-art craft which transported the vaccine in Vanuatu, travelled nearly 40 kilometres over rugged mountain terrain, flying from Dillon’s Bay in the west to remote Cook’s Bay – a scattered community accessible only on foot or by small boats.
Henrietta H. Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF said the tiny aircraft’s flight “is a big leap for global health.”
“With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest-to-reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child,” she added.
Vaccines are extremely difficult to transport as they need to be carried at closely controlled temperatures, a particular challenge in warm places such as like Vanuatu, which is made up of more than 80 remote, mountainous islands stretching across 1,300 kilometres, with only limited road networks.
As a result, almost 20 per cent of the country’s children miss out on these essential vaccines.
Nurse Miriam Nampil, who administrated the vaccine to the children in Cook’s Bay highlighted these challenges: “It’s extremely hard to carry ice boxes to keep the vaccines cool while walking across rivers, mountains, through the rain, or across rocky ledges. I’ve relied on boats, which often get cancelled due to bad weather.”
“As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island,” she added.
Completing the UN’s list of the top five technologies are a space-based tool to track land use, sustainable fashion, a boat made from recycled waste plastic, and tiny houses which could solve housing problems.