Covid19 Initiative

Rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis using digital fabrication in Malawi

COVID-19 poses a serious threat to the health care system in Malawi. An unprecedented demand for medical supplies, coupled with global supply chain disruption, has resulted in a widespread shortage of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE). In Malawi, severe shortages of PPE, including face masks and face shields, have led to protests by health workers.

In other parts of the world, the failure of traditional industry to meet the demand for critical items has given rise to small-scale, localised production of PPE using digital fabrication (i.e. 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC milling). These initiatives leverage Open Source Hardware (OSH), where designs are made freely accessible so that anyone can use and modify them.

As of November 2021, Malawi has 62,000 cumulative confirmed cases, and 59,000 recovered cases. This situation presents a critical window of opportunity to tackle COVID-19 in Malawi. This project will develop digital fabrication capabilities in Malawi to support the production of urgently needed face shields. This is a stop-gap solution to locally produce PPE, at a time when these items cannot be imported in sufficient quantity or are subject to lengthy delays due to disruptions in the supply chain.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to bring together innovators and scientists to develop local solutions and that is what brought this team together. There was a need to scale up the production of PPE and the grant from SIPS joint action program came as a timely boost to enable mass production.

The insights from this intervention will be relevant to other regions with limited manufacturing infrastructure, and will improve preparedness for future crises.

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