COVID-19 in RwandaRwanda is now using five anti-epidemic robots to help combat COVID-19. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an organization working to end global poverty using sustainable practices, donated the robots. The robots’ names are Akazuba, Ikizere, Mwiza, Ngabo and Urumuri. The country received the robots on May 19, 2020, at its Kanyinya Treatment Centre located in the capital city of Kigali, which has taken the brunt of cases of COVID-19 in Rwanda.

About Anti-Epidemic Robots

The robots have the capacity to take temperatures of patients and screen up to 150 people every minute for symptoms. They can also store medical records and capture visual and auditory data for later use by medical personnel. According to Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije, the robots can detect when someone is not wearing a mask. They can then notify staff so the issue can be swiftly and safely resolved. Additionally, the robots can deliver food and medicine to both COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers. They are also able to communicate accurate information about the virus.

Since the outbreak, more than 90,000 healthcare workers around the world have contracted COVID-19 as a result of contact with patients. By utilizing anti-epidemic robots, the Rwandan Ministry of Health hopes to keep medical personnel safe by reducing contact with patients. The robots can also get people the help they need faster and can partially make up for low physician density. As of 2017, Rwanda has only 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people. According to the World Health Organization, anything less than 2.3 physicians per 1,000 of the population is insufficient.

Impact of COVID-19 Globally

COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the globe in a matter of months. Although the outbreak impacts many lives, the lives and futures of vulnerable populations have been particularly affected. The UNDP predicts human development—health, education and standard of living—will decline in all regions of the world. This would be the first decrease in the 30 years the measure has been in use. The World Bank says people living in extreme poverty could increase by 40 to 60 million this year. At this rate, up to 50% of people could lose their jobs and the economy could potentially lose $10 trillion. In addition, more than 250 million people worldwide could face hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are projected to take the biggest blows.

Rwanda, in particular, is quite vulnerable in these aspects. As of 2015, 39.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition, 23.9% do not have access to an improved water source and 38.4% of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. These issues, on top of the high population density, mean COVID-19 has the potential to spread faster and more easily. COVID-19 in Rwanda has the potential to push these vulnerable populations deeper into poverty.

Despite these issues, Rwanda’s introduction of anti-epidemic robots is a step in the right direction. The country has the potential of both slowing the spread of COVID-19 and improving the quality of medical care. Reducing poverty in Rwanda will take time and a coordinated effort. As of right now, battling the effects of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance.

– Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr