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Vaccines have been around for many decades, but thousands of children continue to miss out – especially those living in poor and remote areas. In Vanuatu, nearly 1 in 5 children are deprived of vital childhood vaccinations due to the difficulty of getting the vaccines to them over long distances that lack roads but abound in natural obstacles such as mountains and rivers. Compounding this, Vanuatu’s tropical weather makes it difficult to keep the vaccines at the right temperature over such long journeys.

This is where drones come in. These pilotless delivery planes can fly over craggy peaks and gushing bodies of water, with the vaccines packed in styrofoam boxes that are kept cool by ice-packs and monitored by an instrument that indicates if the temperature slips outside of the required range.

In 2018, one-month-old Joy Nowai became the first child to be inoculated with a vaccine delivered commercially by drone, and now, UNICEF is working with Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health as well as two drone operators – Swoop Aero and WingCopter – to conduct further delivery trials over various distances and locations. The ultimate goal is to make drones a widespread, reliable way of distributing health supplies both in Vanuatu and places like it all around the world.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore says Joy Nowai’s inoculation thanks to drone-delivered vaccines represents “innovation at its best, and shows how we can unlock the potential of the private sector for the greater good of the world’s children. With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child.”

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