Covid-19: Solar-powered ventilators to ease shortage


Technology relies on an automated pumping system.

Friday June 05 2020

The race to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus has sparked a series of local innovations, solar-powered ventilators being the latest.

While the World Bank’s statistics estimates that only 18 million Kenyans lack electricity, dozens of households and institutions in rural areas connected to the national grid experience rampant power outages, which calls for back-ups from solar or generators.

The simple technology developed by researchers at the Nairobi-based Kenya Hydraulics relies on an automated pumping system, allowing the speed and cycle to be regulated based on the need.

Mandeep Signh, a scientist at United Sikhs in Australia who was part of the research, says the ventilator has the ability to inject drug and a provision to put in oxygen.

“After the pandemic, the application can still be used in rural areas and in ambulances because the safety and small design allow for it to be installed in ambulance,” said Singh.

He explained that the design of the gadget isolated “the need for having a nurse”. “We are trying to reduce the danger a patient might cause to the nurse while also putting in place a machine that is going to cater for a small number of nurses in a situation where we have overwhelming Covid-19 cases,” he said.

With the number of Covid-19 cases rising in the country and other parts of the continent, ventilators will come in handy for patients with respiratory challenges.

In severe cases, Covid-19 can cause damage to the lungs, causing the body’s oxygen levels to drop and making it harder for patients to breathe. However, with a ventilator that pushes oxygen into the lungs, patients are able to breathe. Ventilators are in short supply globally as countries producing the gadgets struggle to meet their own demand, ruling out importation options for countries such as Kenya.

Kenyatta University, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute are also in the process of mass-producing such gadgets.

Balvinder Sagoo, the head of Sales and Services of Hydraulic and Pneumatic Components and Systems at Kenya Hydraulics, said they took up the challenge to develop a simple, yet effective, ventilator system.