SUVA, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Vanuatu government has awarded two international drone companies, Swoop Aero and Wingcopter, with commercial contracts to trial the use of drones to take lifesaving vaccines to children living in remote rural islands there.
Ensuring vital supplies at health facilities are consistently available is an ongoing challenge for Vanuatu due to geography, logistics and high costs, the Vanuatu Daily Post online news reported on Friday.
Director general of the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu George Taleo said an important step in dealing with challenges to provide healthcare to vulnerable communities was looking at innovative ways such as the use of drones to transport medical supplies.
UNICEF Pacific representative Sheldon Yett said they were proud to partner with the Vanuatu government in such an innovative initiative to trial drones for delivering a reliable supply of vaccines to children living in remote communities."
"The challenges of reaching children in the remote islands of Vanuatu are immense, nurses often walk several hours to deliver vaccines to health clinics in these communities. Every child in the world has the right to lifesaving vaccines and this technology is a step towards reaching those children most at risk," he added.
Vanuatu is an island country in the Pacific, an archipelago of 83 islands that covers 1,600 km. About one-third of the inhabited islands have airfields and established roads, which creates considerable logistical challenges to reach, engage with and support remote communities.
The first phase of the drone trials will take place on Dec. 3-7 when the two drone companies will test the viability of delivering vaccines to inaccessible areas.
The second phase of the trial, which will transport vaccines to health facilities on the three islands, is expected to commence in early January 2019.