facility had received an average of 11 deliveries per week since the start of the year
and was entirely reliant on Zipline for
blood products during normal business
hours. By late May that had climbed to
20 per week, including weekend deliveries. Rwanda’s civil aviation authority has
not yet given it the go-ahead to operate
at night, so Kabgayi will continue to rely
on its former blood supplier in Kigali for
emergencies after hours. (According to
the Ministry of Health, the country’s five
existing blood depots, which also serve as
centers for blood donation, will remain in
operation even as Zipline scales up.)
The surgeon Kajibwami credits the
service with helping him respond to one
particularly urgent case: a woman who
began hemorrhaging after surgery to
remove an ectopic pregnancy. The ensuing operation, which entailed a partial
hysterectomy, required six units of blood,
more than Kabgayi had in stock, and thus
an urgent call was made to Zipline. The
doctor cannot say whether the patient
would have died in other circumstances.
Still, he’s grateful for the timely delivery.
“It was very bad,” he says of her condition. “It would have been very difficult to
Jonathan W. Rosen is a journalist reporting from sub-Saharan Africa. He wrote
about e-commerce in Ghana for the Janu-ary/February issue.
Boys play soccer on a hilltop
pitch. Kigali is in the background.