Health

UNDP donates robots to help Kenya’s Covid-19 fight

Covid Robots

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe receives three robots from UNDP Kenya that will help the government to fight Covid-19 with a Sh240 million funding from the government of Japan in a handover ceremony in Nairobi on January 22, 2021. PHOTO | BRIAN AMBANI | NMG

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Summary

  • The robots, which were made by Chinese robotics company UBtech, have been named Jasiri, Shujaa and Tumaini.
  • The robots will record audio and video data and notify the manning authorities on anomalies.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Friday received three pilot smart “anti-epidemic” robots from the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Kenya to support the government’s mitigation measures against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The robots, which were made by Chinese robotics company UBtech, have been named Jasiri, Shujaa and Tumaini as a nod to the zealous characters epitomised by healthcare workers who have been on the frontline in the fight against the disease since last year.

The three robots have the capacity to scan between 10 to 100 people per minute from a distance of up to 3.5 metres, limiting direct contact.  They will also be used to disinfect hospitals and airports and disseminate public health messages about Covid-19.  

The robots can detect individuals without masks, those wearing them improperly and issue alerts to the user and officials for immediate corrective measures. 

They also record audio and video data and notify the manning authorities on anomalies such as an unusually high temperature and do immediate disinfection. 

Crucial entry point

Information technology (IT) and health workers who are stationed at areas of deployment of the robots have been trained on how to use them.  

UNDP launched similar robots in Rwanda last year. 

One of the robots will be stationed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) which is a crucial entry point for thousands of visitors and a potential hotspot in importing and spreading the disease. 

UNDP Kenya Resident Representative Walid Badawi said the robotic solutions will help mitigate the inherent risks of Covid-19 through temperature screening, mask detection and automatic disinfection, adding that the body is engaging with private sector technology companies on the maintenance of the robots. 

Covid Robots

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe receives three robots from UNDP Kenya that will help the government to fight Covid-19 with a Sh240 million funding from the government of Japan in a handover ceremony in Nairobi on January 22, 2021. PHOTO | BRIAN AMBANI | NMG

Mr Kagwe, meanwhile, said that the virus has shown that disease does not respect geographic boundaries, but that emerging technology such as robotics will make it easier for prepared countries to combat both the Covid-19 pandemic and future pandemics. 

The CS said that the robots will hasten checking in of visitors at JKIA by increasing the number of travelers that can be served at any given time. 

“As we deploy this technology today, I have every confidence that our travelers and tourists visiting Kenya will appreciate the ability of these robots to fast track traveler clearance at the airports,” Mr Kagwe said. 

Stretched health facilities

Mr Kagwe said the support from UNDP Kenya and other development partners will help Kenya deliver on its universal healthcare target by helping equip healthcare workers and stretched health facilities. 

“As a country, we are open to innovations that add value to our health system. One of the areas of concentration is primary healthcare and we want to shift emphasis from the normal routine of patients going to hospital," Kagwe said.

"In this policy shift, moving forward, you are likely to see doctors visiting patients’ homes in a move from the norm. We have seen patients die struggling to go to the hospital to see the doctor where it would have been quite easier for the doctor to come to tend to the patient at home,” the CS added.

Mr Kagwe said the robots will complement other technologies that have already been put in place to help stem the spread of the disease, highlighting the Jitenge contact tracing app that his ministry has heralded as a game changer in combating the virus. 

“In launching the Jitenge app, which is supposed to be used across the entire continent, there was a lot of opposition and all sorts of scandals created around it that we are supposed to be paying “gazillions” of money to Africa CDC which is untrue because we have paid absolutely nothing. But we are using this app so that we have an Africa-wider approach in combating this disease (Covid-19),” Mr Kagwe said. 

The Jitenge app was developed in Kenya in June last year and helps in contact tracing by allowing health officials to track a person's movements and who they come into contact with, which gives officials a critical tool for limiting the spread of the virus.