Vaccine wastage is a global problem: WHO estimates that up to half of all vaccines are lost every year, largely due to the vials not being stored at the right temperature during storage and transport.

For this reason, many children miss out on essential vaccinations. To help combat this issue, Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Programme selected the UNICEF Drones Programme, which works towards efficiently delivering vaccines via drones, as a way to spotlight and expand the initiative on a global scale.

Vanuatu was the first country in the world to test the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of drones to deliver lifesaving vaccines to inaccessible remote communities. 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.

The initiative, led by the Government of Vanuatu through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, enabled one-month old Joy Nowai to become, in December 2018, the first child to be successfully vaccinated, for hepatitis and tuberculosis, following a drone delivery.

Since 2019, the Ministry of Health of Vanuatu, with the support of UNICEF, has been scaling up drone deliveries into the national immunisation programme to increase availability. With this success and the programme being highlighted at Expo 2020 Dubai, drone-delivered vaccines may soon become commonplace, particularly in harder-to-reach parts of the world.

The Expo 2020 Dubai Innovation Series is a weekly blog series highlighting some of the creative and world-changing innovations that are being showcased via Expo 2020 Dubai’s programmes and pavilions.

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