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Strengthening health supply chains in Malawi

Swoop Aero’s operations in Malawi span across a number of use-cases, including integrated medical drone supply chain logistics, aerial mapping and disaster preparedness activities.

Malawi North

In 2019, Swoop Aero took over operations of the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Procurement and Supply Management project in the Nkhata Bay district in the North of Malawi.

Using the district hospital as our base, we rapidly expanded existing operations, launching up to ten long-range medical drone flights per day to cover a total of eight health facilities. With multiple aircraft airborne at once, we facilitated efficient cold-chain deliveries, medication drops, and collections of blood samples for HIV/AIDS testing, results, and diagnosis.

Malawi South

In January 2020, we launched a sustained multi-purpose medical air logistics and disaster relief operation in the Nsanje and Chikwawa districts of Malawi with funding from UNICEF and UKAID. The project spanned across a ten-month period and facilitated the sustained and safe transportation and delivery of essential health supplies— even throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This capability was facilitated through Swoop Aero’s Remote Piloting System (RPS) that enabled our aircraft to be piloted in Malawi from our HQ in Melbourne, Australia.

By combining seamless daily long-range drone deliveries with our aircraft’s ability to assist with flood mapping and disaster response, the program was able to strengthen the health supply chain while also improving access to healthcare during the flood season for the 500,000 residents of Malawi South.

Since October 2020, Swoop Aero has partnered with Washington-based NGO VillageReach to sustain and scale up the existing air logistics network in the South of Malawi to a national level. Signing a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the national Ministry of Health and Population in June 2021, Swoop Aero, and VillageReach are supporting the government to address strategic health objectives, such as improved accessibility and availability of essential health supplies.

Delivery of Critical Supplies

Swoop Aero’s fleet of aircraft bridges the first and last miles between hard-to-reach populations and vital medical supplies needed to improve health outcomes. Because of our unique two-way logistics capability, one flight can safely convey vaccines and other medical supplies at the right temperature for 130 km, and can pick up time-sensitive test samples for the return flight. This expedites an approximately six-hour round-trip journey to under 60 minutes, as evidenced in our operations that service Nsanje to Makhanga.

In October 2021, Swoop Aero became one of the first air logistics companies globally to transport the WHO-approved malaria vaccine. The malaria vaccine, used on top of existing tools to prevent malaria, could save tens of thousands of young lives each year. With our Malawi team already delivering hundreds of vaccine doses per day, we’re looking forward to deploying our scalable and sustainable platform to save lives.

Upskilling Local Resources

By employing and training members from within the community, we make operations self-sufficient and eliminate the need for Swoop Aero’s international team to be running operations on the ground.

Swoop Aero has worked collaboratively with the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) and local stakeholders to recruit, train and employ local pilots, hub operators, and network managers to run, coordinate and manage daily operations. As the network grows to a national level, Swoop Aero will continue to hire local crew members to manage and scale this sustained network model.

Swoop Aero also trains medical professionals to send and receive essential medical cargo via drone. Nurses and healthcare staff will soon be able to send and receive supplies independently, so they can continue to do their work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Aerial Mapping and Data Collection

Swoop Aero aircraft run simultaneous aerial mapping and data collection activities, with collected data used to optimise early warning and disaster preparedness procedures. Local authorities will use the data for informed and timely decision-making, ultimately leading to vulnerable communities being provided with the humanitarian assistance they need. The detailed data will also support other humanitarian projects such as the identification of disease hotspots, evaluation of crop yields, and flood modelling in high-risk areas.

Further reading

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