No One Left Behind – Combining Technology and Humanitarian Aid in Rwanda

Laura Lane, who was a Foreign Service Officer during the genocide in Rwanda more than 20 years ago, returns to Kigali as part of the WEF Africa Summit meetings to highlight what good comes from collaboration.

There is so much tangible economic momentum across parts of Africa that has the potential to drive greater economic development and growth, but there are also still so many real challenges ahead that require multi-stakeholder solutions and partnership.

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Our humanitarian partnership has great potential for transforming the continent.

The WEF Africa Summit taking place here in Rwanda is bringing together many of these stakeholders to foster dialogue and collaboration in order to strengthen Africa’s image as a great destination for investment and to showcase the power of resilience in the face of the continent’s major challenges.

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Partnering to save lives

UPS is proud to be a part of that resilience. We are partnering with the Ministry of Health of Rwanda, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Zipline International, Inc. on the development of a medical supply chain designed to increase the efficiency of delivering life-saving supplies to clinics and patients in hard-to-reach areas utilizing a drone delivery network.

These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provided by Zipline will deliver health supplies, initially blood supplies, with the potential for vaccines in the future. They go where other vehicles sometimes can’t go.

4V8A5931Our partnership in this project is a step toward transforming the way life-saving supplies like blood and vaccines are delivered to challenging places to reach.

The first operations will launch later this summer, when drones will deliver blood to Rwandan blood transfusion facilities. With the highest maternal death rate in the world due to postpartum hemorrhaging, blood delivery is critically important in Africa.

Thus, our drone delivery project is the first phase of a partnership between UPS, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance – and Zipline, a robotics company, to study how drones can be used to not only save lives in childbirth but to also deliver vaccines and other critical health products that could save even more lives in the future.

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What Rwanda means to me

This project in Rwanda is deeply meaningful to me. Twenty-two years ago, I was stationed in Kigali, the nation’s capital, as a Foreign Service Officer at the outbreak of the civil war and led the evacuation efforts of many.

Later, I returned to Rwanda as a political adviser to U.S. forces providing humanitarian relief in the wake of the genocide and the devastation it wrought across the region. My time in Rwanda in those days remains unforgettable and a reminder of all the lives lost.

Returning now though, I am struck by the powerful reality that a country that experienced the worst of humanity through genocide has transformed itself into a country that has inspired a powerful partnership for bringing life-saving hope.

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When we collaborate, we have the power to save lives – in Rwanda – and around the world.

I am inspired by that transformation and the efforts to foster a culture of resilience across Africa that are being discussed here at the WEF Summit on Africa.

Our humanitarian partnership project is just one such effort among many others being discussed that have the great potential for transforming the continent.

Gavi, which works with developing countries to bring vaccines to hundreds of millions of people in need, hopes the blood delivery will reveal how drones can be used to deliver vaccines to people in remote areas as well.

The UPS Foundation helped fund this operation with $800,000 in grant money. But funding was just a small part of our contribution.

On site, UPS will be tracking every logistical aspect of each delivery, from the temperature of the blood, to the cost-effectiveness of the delivery.

Does the cold-chain work? What could be done faster? How do we make the process run more smoothly?

When our logistics expertise is combined with Gavi’s experience and Zipline’s technology, we know that together we will find ways to save even more lives.

Global partnership powers our humanitarian efforts as we believe humanitarian relief is a shared responsibility among corporations, governments and civil society.

We each have resources, networks and knowledge that can be part of the solutions to today’s challenges.

And when we bring all those efforts together in collaboration, we have the power to save lives – in Rwanda – and around the world. Those solutions can then also become powerful drivers for global growth. goldbrown2


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Laura Lane is President, Global Public Affairs, at UPS.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.