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Necessity Gives Birth to Innovation at Malawi Ward

Dr. Msandeni Chiume Kayuni found herself in the middle of a supply crisis as COVID-19 spread to Africa in April 2020. As head of Paediatrics at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, her team faced a critical shortage of N95 and regular surgical face masks. Nurses and doctors were striking. Ingenuity kicked in. The Malawi team purchased raincoats from the local market to use as personal protective equipment when they could not afford appropriate gowns that cost three times as much. Unlike disposable gowns, the rain gear could easily be sanitized in bleach and reused. Worldwide, as the global supply chain for basic PPE, diagnostic tests and equipment to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients buckled under the strain, medical personnel improvised and engineers began developing solutions almost overnight. Engineering students used university-based maker spaces to invent and produce new technologies – face shields, automated hand washing stations, diagnostic testing equipment and respiratory support equipment – that allowed health care workers to safely deliver effective care.