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UNICEF Looking for Drones Companies to Deliver Vaccines in the South Pacific—Deadline to Apply Is June 20

BY Zacc Dukowitz
15 June 2018

UNICEF is seeking drone companies to deliver urgently needed medical supplies within the remote island nation of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is composed of an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, covering a total area of approximately 994 miles. Of those islands 65 are inhabited, but only 20 have roads and airports—and on those 20 islands, the road conditions are often bad, with the roads frequently flooded or washed away.

A picture taken by drone in Vanuatu (image source)

Due to its remote location and underdeveloped infrastructure, delivering vaccines and other medical supplies to the people living on the islands of Vanuatu can be incredibly difficult. Teams are usually deployed to walk on foot between villages, carrying temperature-sensitive vaccines and equipment, but if the temperature climbs these vaccines can quickly degrade and become useless.

Similar delivery challenges contribute to a general lack of supplies at medical facilities in Vanuatu, which means that even if people can get to a larger town for medical help there’s no guarantee the supplies needed will be on hand.

And of course, this is where drone deliveries come in—as you might already know, UNICEF is not new to drone medical deliveries. Last year they partnered with Zipline to create the first air corridor in Africa, which helped enable Zipline to deliver over 7,000 units of blood within the country of Rwanda.

Through its UNICEF Innovation division, UNICEF has been working with governments and corporate sponsors around the world to find places where drones can be used for good, implementing them for humanitarian and developmental missions. Their website has a page devoted to drones, highlighting the power drones present for use in “humanitarian and development affairs by their potential for imagery, connectivity, and transportation.”

Drone delivery of life-saving vaccines has the potential to be an absolute game changer, not only for helping people who live in remote and extremely inaccessible locations, but in addressing consequent disparities in access to health services.

– Felicity Weaver, Director of Programs at UNICEF Australia

Want to get a feel for Vanuatu? Check out this aerial video shot there with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro:

A Week in Vanuatu - DJI Phantom 4 Pro 4K60

More Information on UNICEF’s RFT for Vanuatu

According to the Request for Tender (RFT) posted on the UNICEF website, they are looking for companies “to provide the logistical services to deliver vaccines via drones for the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Vanuatu.” The deadline to apply is June 20, 2018.

Here is the UNICEF Request for Tender:

MoH, in assessment with UNICEF, is exploring the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, as a quick, reliable, and effective mode of transportation to deliver vaccines from main health facilities to dispensaries, aid post, and mobile vaccination teams. It also includes maintaining the cargo temperature between 2 and 8 Celsius degrees -to ensure the cold chain is not interrupted and the vaccines are delivered in optimal condition.

The primary objective of the project is to test the technical feasibility and economical sustainability of including this new mode of transportation into the existing Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) as a last-mile delivery resource. To achieve this objective, Ministry of Health is seeking to contract up to three service contractors through a government procurement process. Three (3) Request for Tender (RFT) processes for physical services, for Pentecost, Epi & Shephedrs, and Erromago islands respectively, have been officially issued (download a .pdf version of each RFT process below).

The RFTs are not mutually exclusive and, if individuals or companies opt to apply, may result in them being contracted to provide services for a maximum of two of them.

Interested companies can learn more about the RFT and how to apply on the UNICEF website.

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