Ghana flies medication via drone to mark World Sickle Cell Day
Ghana yesterday marked World Sickle Cell Day in a unique way, with the symbolic lifting of medication via drone to a sickle cell patient in Asamankese in the Eastern Region.
The patient, Master Ohene Kwaku, 11, has, for the past eight years, been transported by his mother from Asamankese to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra for his medication.
But on the occasion, three packets of Hydroxyurea capsules were flown to the Asamankese Government Hospital by a Zipline Medical Drone, much to the delight of the boy and his mother, Ms Ellen Ofori.
The medication was supplied to the patient free of charge, courtesy Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, and Zipline Ghana Limited.
The drone flew from the Zipline Centre at Omenako about 10:20 a.m. and reached the Asamankese Government Hospital in 25 minutes.
The Head of Pharmacy at the Asamankese Government Hospital, Nii Obodai Mensah, placed the order for the medication at 10:15 a.m. and the drone set off five minutes later.
World Sickle Cell Day
World Sickle Cell Day is observed on June 19, every year to spread awareness of the sickle cell disease. It focuses, especially, on the proper care and safety of sickle cell patients and the preventive measures.
Besides, the day provides people with a better idea about the disease.
At the national level, this year's Sickle Cell Day was marked on the theme: 'Blood is thicker than water'.
Over the period, Kwaku’s mother had been spending an average of GH¢60 for one pack of Hydroxyurea every three months.
He was diagnosed with the disease at the age of three and had had to be transported to Korle Bu over the last eight years for treatment.
Speaking to journalists at the Asamankese Government Hospital after receiving the medication, Ms Ofori said she had, over the period, transported her son four times each year to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.
She was thankful to Novartis and Zipline for supplying three packets of the drug free of charge to her son.
Zipline Ghana Limited
The General Manager of Zipline Ghana Limited, Mr Daniel Marfo, said his outfit was working with Novartis and the Sickle Cell Foundation to find ways of easing Kwaku’s plight and that of other sickle cell patients across the country.
"Today, the boy and his mother do not have to travel to Korle Bu; they can just pick a car and go to the Asamankese Hospital for the drugs," he said.
The President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frimpong, praised Novartis for the support it had rendered to the foundation and sickle cell patients in the country over the years.
He said since 1995 Novartis had been supporting the treatment of sickle cell in Ghana, revealing that the Swiss pharmaceutical giant had pledged to halve the price of Hydroxyurea capsules.
He said about 15,000 babies were born with sickle cell in Ghana every year and about 50 to 90 per cent of them died before the age of five.
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, in April 2019, launched the medical drone delivery service at Omenako in the Eastern Region to improve medical delivery service in the country.
The service, which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Zipline Technologies, uses drones to make national-scale, on-demand emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products and life-saving medications.
When fully operational, it will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from four distribution centres — each equipped with 30 drones — and deliver to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.
All four distribution centres will make up to 600 on-demand delivery flights a day. Each distribution centre will have the capacity to make up to 500 flights per day.