A loud hiss and grunt come from a green bag pressing air through a tube, as Senegalese researchers work to develop a prototype ventilator that could cost a mere $160 each instead of tens of thousands of dollars.
What We Know:
- The team is using 3-D printed parts as it works to find a homegrown solution to a medical shortfall that has struck even the richest countries: how to have enough breathing machines to handle an avalanche of COVID-19 patients who need the devices to help increase their blood oxygen levels.
“Africans must find their own solutions to their problems. We must show our independence. It’s a big motivation for this.” – Ibrahima Gueye, a professor at the Polytechnic School of Thies
- Many hope that these efforts to develop ventilators, personal protective equipment, sanitizers, and quick-result antibody tests will lead to more independent solutions for future health crises.
- In Ethiopia, biomedical engineer Bilisumma Anbesse is among those volunteers repairing and upgrading old ventilators. While the country has tried to procure more than 1,000 ventilators abroad, progress has been thwarted by the high demand.
- Africans are also helping to develop tools for disease prevention and surveillance.
- Workers in Dakar are using laser cutters to make about 1,000 face shields per week for healthcare workers. They are also creating key chains with prevention messages such as “Stay Home”.
- It is not known whether these projects will be finished before the virus hits its peak in Africa, but observers say the longer-term impact of such ingenuity is substantial.
- Ahmed Ogwell, deputy director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted there would be a “new public health order” after the pandemic, with changes in global supply chains. Countries are already taking steps toward not having to rely on help from abroad.
- African nations are understanding the importance of local production and ingenuity.
“This is a global pandemic: 210 countries and territories across the globe are affected,” Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted recently. “We cannot expect others to come to our assistance. No one is coming to defeat this virus for us.”