‘Engineering dreams come true’ for Kenya varsity during Covid-19

By Ferdinand Omondi

A university in Kenya has begun the mass production of ventilators and nasal swabs to help meet the shortage in the country’s health sector.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute estimates that the country needs at least 1,600 more ventilators for a possible one million Covid-19 cases; at the moment the country has less than 300.

The machine, developed at Kenyatta University’s school of engineering, is the first production of its kind in Kenya and involved co-operation across faculties.

Students checking a ventilator

“As an engineering student I feel so good that I have applied what I learned in school because that is actually the dream of engineering,” engineering student Fidel Makatia told the BBC.

The government has urged regional hospitals to increase the amount of specialised beds and equipment. Some have ordered Kenyatta University’s ventilators.

The university is currently producing 50 a week for a fraction of the price of the imported version.

Nasal swabs

In a separate engineering lab, a student is producing nasal swabs used in Covid-19 tests, another Kenyan first.The innovator is Simon Karuga, a student of biotechnology. He says he heeded the government call for more locally made products during the pandemic.

“I’m able to produce this using the 3-D printing… So this makes me proud to come up with an idea that is helping the government to fight the pandemic,” he told the BBC.

The students now hope that with their success from prototype to production, they can begin inventing other equipment, and continue local production of high-tech manufacturing.