Pandemic paves way for local medical innovations

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 00:00 |
State officials and Kenyatta University students mill around a ventilator prototype developed at the institution. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Murimi Mutiga @murimimutiga

Exactly one month ago, Kenya reported its first Covid-19 case, leading the country down an uncharted path in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. 

As the powerful countries such as the US, China, France, Spain and Italy fracture under the strain, Kenya appears to have seized the moment to defeat some of the underlying conditions that make African countries more vulnerable to such an outbreak.

Prof Hassan Mwakimako of Pwani University told People Daily that coronavirus pandemic has proved that solutions for our problems are within.

“The virus has shown we can tailor our own local solutions to our problems,” he said.

The global shortage of protective gear and life saving equipment such as ventilators has exposed health systems of even the most powerful nations, leaving them desperate.

In Kenya, the government has turned to local innovations to tame the spread of the deadly virus.

Besides local manufacturing of face masks, other innovations include development of ventilators and mobile phone applications for monitoring Covid-19 cases.

At the Kenyatta University, students have developed a ventilator prototype to bridge the biting deficit.

The 16 students from different faculties developed the prototype in under a week. 

Fifth Year pharmacy student Bernard Karanja says they are optimistic the prototype dubbed Tiba Vent will be approved by the Ministry of Health as well as Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to help save lives. 

KU Vice Chancellor Paul Wainaina said the institution has the capacity to produce 50 ventilators a week if the prototype is approved at a cost of Sh500,000 each. 

The Kitui County Textile Centre has turned into a 24-hour factory, with 30,000 masks produced a day. Eldoret-based Rivatex is also producing face masks. 

Dedan Kimathi University of Technology is producing personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and body suits for medics.

“As Kenyans, we must do whatever we can first even as we look for help elsewhere,” university VC Ndirangu Kioni said. 

Kenya has also began mass testing for Covid-19 after the Kenya Medical Research Institute developed an innovation to process results for at least 35,000 samples in 24 hours from the previous 600 tests per day. 

The government is also piloting the use of disinfecting containers for mass sanitation.

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