Rwandan biomedical engineers to produce ventilators

Joseph Habiyaremye, Costica Uwitonze and Jean Claude Udahemuka, Rwandan biomedical engineers, from Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre Kigali, who made the first locally produced ventilator to respond to COVID-19 pandemic. The locally made ventilator will soon hit the market at a cost of USD2000-4000. Photo: Willy Mucyo.

Rwandan biomedical engineers, from Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) Kigali, could soon release the first locally produced ventilators at affordable prices on the market to respond to COVID-19 pandemic after trials gained momentum in the last few days.

Joseph Habiyaremye, one of the engineers working on the prototype said that the idea to make ventilators came about last month amid the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.


 “After seeing how the pandemic has ravaged the world and the importance of ventilators in treatment of the virus, we challenged ourselves to try and produce them locally,” he said.



Habiyaremye, one of the engineers working on the ventilator prototype, speaks to journalists. Photo: Willy Mucyo.

The engineers are trying on two types of ventilators including one in hospitals for patients on the bed and the other which is a portable one that can be used in an ambulance.

“We have worked on the product for eight days now. On the first day on Sunday we were collecting materials to develop the equipment. We called professors from universities in health related fields to come and verify the equipment. Now we have equipment looking like a normal ventilator,” he said.

He noted that the locally made ventilator could be available at a lower price compared to the imported ones.

“The ventilator works like the ones that are imported. The ventilator is made of materials available locally because at IPRC, we have consumables that can be used and it will be available at a low cost. An imported ventilator costs $20,000 but the one we produced will go for between $2,000 and $4,000,” he said.

Habiyaremye added that after the final product is out, they will follow approval steps by concerned organs before the ministry of health puts it on the market.

He said that they want to make the ventilator with a battery that can last 186 hours and work for 5 days without stopping and without using electricity.

If locally produced, it will also be easy for their regular maintenance, he said.

Addressing ventilators shortage

The world is scrambling to buy ventilators in the Covid-19 pandemic but there is a shortage of them according to a CNN report.

Eng. Diogène Mulindahabi, the Principal of IPRC Kigali locally made ventilators could make Rwanda safe from shortage.

 “The outside manufacturers are making ventilators for their own people to cope with coronavirus and thus avoiding exporting them. Locally making ventilators in Rwanda could fill that gap,” he said

He said the final model will be available this week.

“We are currently adjusting experimental results to correlate the ventilators with standard oxygen that a person needs,” he said.

Mulindahabi said that the biomedical engineers working on the trials are also working with medical doctors to get a final product.

Projected production capacity

“It took eight days to produce the first prototype but when there is enough manpower, many ventilators can be made in less days,” he said.

He called on the government and investors to invest in the research.

“We have to continue thinking of innovations that address emerging issues in different sectors such as agriculture, health and others.

Prof. Stephen Rulisa, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, School of Medicine & Pharmacy at University of Rwanda and also clinician at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) said that the team has hope of producing many ventilators.

“There is very big hope. Within two days we will have a perfect model of the ventilator and they can now make 10 ventilators in less than a week,’ he said.

As a clinician, we have been working with engineers for a week. What we do is to challenge engineers with clinical questions to make ventilators. We give them ideas and they work on them. And then we come and test if the ventilators are ready and deliver a normal oxygen therapy that is needed for a patient who cannot breathe on their own, he noted.

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