Delivering lifesaving vaccines and health supplies to remote communities

Port Vila, 14 June 2017: The Vanuatu Government will make history today by launching what may be the first-ever trial in the Pacific to test the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of drones to deliver lifesaving vaccines to inaccessible remote communities in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu will test Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), commonly referred to as “drones”, and the services offered by that industry using an important commodity – lifesaving vaccines. Successful applicants are being challenged to demonstrate the value and suitability of the drones in solving a key development issue – the supply of vital vaccines to children in otherwise inaccessible communities.

“The Parliament of Vanuatu is proud to be hosting the national launch that will pilot the wide application of the drone technology to solving logistical constraints faced by a small island development state like Vanuatu,” stated Hon. Esmon Saimon, Speaker of Vanuatu Parliament. “I would like to especially acknowledge the Ministries of Public Utilities and Infrastructure and Health for taking the lead on such an important project to help us in delivering vaccines to remote rural communities of Vanuatu,” he added.

Aerial shot of the island of Efate. ©Vanuatu Helicopters/2017/Andy Martin

“UNICEF is excited to work with the Government of Vanuatu to support this initiative. Ensuring vaccines are consistently available in isolated and remote communities is one of the keys to sustaining high rates of immunisation. We welcome innovative measures to ensure that every child is reached,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

Director General of the Ministry of Health, George Taleo stated, “This is a milestone for Vanuatu. If the trial shows that vaccine delivery using drones can work, and that it can be integrated into our existing national and provincial systems, then it will change the way we operate forever. If it works, we will allow us to better ensure availability of health supplies to our people even at community aid post levels.”

Increasing availability, performance and declining cost of drones offer innovative opportunities for applications in challenging environments such as Vanuatu. An archipelago of 83 islands that run 1,600 kilometres north to south, 65 of which are inhabited and around 20 of which have airfields and established roads, Vanuatu faces considerable logistical challenges to reach, engage with and support remote communities. This initiative explores options that allow the government to enhance service delivery and significantly reduce costs as it does not require massive investment in infrastructure and transport.

The trial will be conducted in three phases: a technical trial in August when drones will be flying over North Efate Island and scored against various performance criterias; a request for proposal through which vaccines will be delivered to health staff on targeted islands in February and March 2018; and a three to six month use of UAVs in regular provincial deliveries of health supplies later in 2018.  The initiative is led by the Government through Ministry of Health and Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund.

 


About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicefpacific.org.  Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

About the Parliament of Vanuatu

The Parliament of Vanuatu was established by the Constitution in 1980. Its functioning is derived from the British Westminster system, and includes the principle of parliamentary supremacy, within the limits of the Constitution. Parliament is composed of 52 members, directly elected by citizens from multi-member constituencies for a four-year term. For more information on the work of the Parliament, visit: https://parliament.gov.vu/

About the Vanuatu Ministry of Health

The Vanuatu Ministry of Health is guided by the Vanuatu Health Sector Strategy (2010 – 2016). The mission of the Ministry of Health is to protect and promote the health of all people in Vanuatu. The values it seeks to uphold are consumer focus, equity, quality, integrity and efficiency. Its vision is for an integrated and decentralised health system that promotes efficient and effective and equitable health services for the good health and general wellbeing of all people in Vanuatu.

About the Vanuatu Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities

The Vanuatu Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities has a vision to effectively contribute to Vanuatu’s social and economic development through provision of professional and efficient transport infrastructure and services. Its mission statement is to provide efficient and effective infrastructure and services related to roads, wharves, airfields, ports, meteorology and geo-hazards, civil aviation, water, power and telecommunications.

For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Olul, UNICEF Vanuatu Field Office, +678 24655, +678 77 666 04, rolul@unicef.org

 

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