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Drones Deliver Drugs in Devastated Region

A Zipline engineer prepares a a drone for test flight at an operations base in Muhanda, south of Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Rwanda was California-based Zipline's first African operations area. Taken Oct. 12, 2016.

A California tech company that delivers medical products by drone said it has completed its first flights in Nigeria on Friday, in the violence-affected northwestern state of Kaduna.

ABUJA - Access to healthcare in parts of Africa's most populous nation is limited by the presence of jihadist groups and criminal gangs, restricting many people from getting the care they need.

So, a U.S. company, "Zipline," said it is expanding operations beyond its present bases in Ghana and Rwanda to begin drug and blood drone delivery flights in Nigeria. Test flights have already started there.

Amina Mohammed Baloni, Nigeria's top health official, said "Today's flights are an important step toward ensuring people across Kaduna state have access to the care they need, precisely when and where they need it,"

Zipline said the flights will deliver more than 200 different medical products across Kaduna state.

By the end of the month, the company says it plans to "operate three distribution centers across the state, covering an area of 46,000 square kilometers (17,760 square miles) and delivering to approximately 500 health facilities serving millions of people".

Operations in other Nigerian states are scheduled for later this year, it added, without giving further details.

Founded in 2014, and with its growth propelled by the needs seen during the coronavirus pandemic, Zipline raised $250 million in June last year to expand operations.

Deliveries by Zipline, including of Covid-19 vaccines, have taken place in Ghana, Rwanda, the US and Japan.