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UPS to start drone deliveries of medicines in Rwanda

Steve Rogerson
May 17, 2016

UPS is to start drone deliveries of medical products in Rwanda as the first stage of a global initiative with California robotics company Zipline and vaccine alliance Gavi.
The partnership aims to explore using drones to transform the way life-saving medicines such as blood and vaccines are delivered across the world.
All too often, critical health products spoil or fail to reach the individuals who urgently need them. This public-private partnership combines a century of global logistics expertise, cold chain and healthcare delivery from UPS with Zipline’s national drone delivery network and Gavi’s experience in developing countries focused on saving lives and protecting health in the most remote places of the world.
The UPS Foundation has awarded an $800,000 grant to support the initial launch of this initiative in Rwanda.
“Public-private partnerships are the key to solving many of the world’s challenges, with each partner contributing its unique expertise,” said Eduardo Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation. “UPS is always exploring innovative ways to enhance humanitarian logistics to help save lives, and we’re proud to partner with Gavi and Zipline as we explore ways to extend the Rwandan government’s innovations at a global scale.”
Starting later this year, the Rwandan government will begin using Zipline drones, which can make up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. According to the World Health Organisation, Africa has the highest rate in the world of maternal death due to postpartum haemorrhaging, which makes access to lifesaving blood transfusions critically important for women across the continent.
“UPS is always at the forefront of supply chain logistics, and this partnership is part of our continuous exploration of new possibilities,” said Wayne Pi, managing director of UPS Taiwan. “UPS invests US$1bn globally each year advancing our technology to optimise our service, and it is a privilege for UPS to be able to serve communities by lending our expertise to humanitarian logistics to help those in need.”
Seth Berkley, CEO of Geneva-based Gavi, added:  “Our partnership with UPS and Zipline is an exciting step into a new territory for the delivery of medical supplies. It is a totally different way of delivering vaccines to remote communities and we are extremely interested to learn if UAVs can provide a safe, effective way to make vaccines available for some of the hardest-to-reach children.”
While Rwanda’s national drone network is initially focused on the delivery of blood supplies, the plan is to expand the initiative to include vaccines, treatments for HIV and Aids, malaria, tuberculosis, and many other essential and lifesaving medicines. Rwanda’s drone delivery operation is expected to save thousands of lives over the next three years and could serve as a model for other countries.
“The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “The work of this partnership will help solve that problem once and for all. With the expertise and vision of UPS, Gavi and Zipline, instant drone delivery will allow us to save thousands of lives in a way that was never before possible.”
Founded in 1951, the UPS Foundation leads the logistics company’s global citizenship programmes and is responsible for facilitating community involvement to local, national and global communities. In 2015, UPS and its employees, active and retired, invested more than $110mn in charitable giving around the world.
Gavi is a public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries. The vaccine alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organisation, Unicef, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other private sector partners.