The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) says that only a collaborative approach to containing the Coronavirus will save the country from devastating effects of the global pandemic.
The university, through its Centre for Innovation and Research, has since announced that it is ready to support innovations aimed at preparing the country for the fight against the infection that has now killed about 35,000 people globally.
On Friday, the institution mobilised various critical thinkers and innovators to a meeting aimed at brainstorming on coming up with local technologies to contain the virus.
MUST has since partnered with the College of Medicine where scientists from the two institutions continue to bang heads in coming up with relevant but locally derived innovations against COVID-19.
MUST director of research, postgraduate studies and outreach programmes Dr Alfred Maluwa said it was high time the country pooled together whatever resources it has in the wake of the pandemic.
“We have seen how devastating the virus has been too strong and capable economies across the globe. It needs no emphasis on what it can do to a small economy like Malawi. We just have to be prepared and when it comes to this, I feel we do not have to leave any stone unturned. Academic institutions like ours have to be proactive; hence MUST taking the leading role in trying to come up with various innovative solutions to the challenge ahead of us,” he said.
Some of the innovations that the meeting reviewed on Friday include automated water and hand sanitiser dispenser which uses a sensor.
According to Charles Makamo, who led the team that developed the technology, the product mainly attempts to prevent people from being contaminated from the very tools meant to help them sanitise.
Makamo said that with the taps and buckets, everyone is compelled to close the water after they had already sanitised through contact, something which puts them in danger as there is always a greater chance of contamination on the tools usually used by everyone passing through such tools.
Makamo explained: “Our technology is removing the contact aspect to it by using sensors. On the other hand, we are also incorporating those with physical disabilities who may not manage to sanitise on their own. Once the technology senses a human being, water and the liquid soap automatically comes out from the taps and stops immediately one steps back from it.”
Other notable innovations included mobile applications and softwares aimed at tracking and monitoring the health of suspected and confirmed cases that can be used by hospitals and medical personnel across the country once approved.
According to Maluwa, the technologies, once fine-tuned to recommendations, will have to first be patented and approved by relevant agencies before being released for commercialisation.
“We are also aware that we do not have all the time to ourselves. For scientific and academic research to be of value, they must respond to any social challenge at a given time. We plan to have the innovations undergo the said processes within the next 10 days. Universities have to bring solutions and this is why we exist,” he said.
Meanwhile, the team has called for expressions of interest from interested individuals and institutions to come up with more locally-initiated innovative responses against Coronavirus.
The Centre for Innovation and Research is running the programme in conjunction with the US-based Michigan State University with funds from USAID.