Uganda’s Minister of Health  Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng flanked by the Makerere University  Deputy Vice Chancellor in charged of Finance and Administration , Prof. William Bazeyo, has unveiled a locally made low cost medical ventilator called Bulamu (Life) that is designed to offer life support to patients suffering from the global Covid -19 pandemic and other illnesses .

The innovation was spearheaded by Makerere University  School of Public Health coordinated through the Resilient Africa Network(RAN)  and the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of  Science, Technology and Innovation under its local manufacturing company , Kiira Motors Corporation ltd ,(KMC).

Under the guidance of  President  Yoweri Museveni, Dr. Aceng  is widely praised for her  steadfast leadership in the containment of the spread of the coronavirus in Uganda and said that she was proud of scientists at Makerere  University and Kiira Motors engineers for their innovations that have led to the production  of a locally made low cost  medical ventilator .

The minister said that the Bulamu ventilators will be installed in various medical facilities across the country to help in the fight against Covid-19 and other illnesses . “ I’am glad  to unveil the Bulamu ventilator locally made by Kiira Motors . I’m proud of our Ugandan innovations offering local solutions to our day to day challenges ” she stated .

Although government is now easing on the 75 day nation wide lockdown, Dr. Aceng appealed to Ugandans to remain vigilant in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus by adhering to all the measures instituted by government which include , wearing masks while in public, social distancing , washing hands and staying and working at home.  

 “I appreciate all of you for keeping safe. But don’t become complacent. I feel sad when I see what is going on downtown. Remind each other that Covid-19 is still with usit did not end with the lockdown.” she said.

“If many of you have been following closely what is happening in other countries, you see that not all patients are managed in a hospital setting. About 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and moderate, while 20% progress to severe. If our set up was in such a way that we had homes that are self-contained, we would actually manage patients at home. It is better to remove patients from communities to prevent infections. So, Namboole will accommodate mild patients,” Aceng explained.

Prof. Bazeyo speaks out

Prof. William Bazeyo, who appreciated the frontline health workers and the media for their tireless efforts to treat patients and disseminate information and about the deadly Covid -19 pandemic ,respectively, noted that Uganda now has the capacity to innovate and produce ground breaking products including medical equipment. He said that the Bulamu medical ventilator which is designed to breath  life into ailing patients, was manufactured using pipes, plumbing equipment, metals, which were locally sourced and developed by researchers at Makerere University and engineers at Kiira Motors.

 He said the Bulamu ventilator costs slightly lower than $4,000 compared to 25,000 US dollars a medical ventilator costs at the world market .It will support the management of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome caused by the coronavirus.

Dr. Sembatya’s contribution

The initiative to manufacture ventilator came from Dr.Vincent A. Sembatya, the Director for Quality Assurance at Makerere University.

“This ventilator has been the second phase, the first phase was proof of concept, which we made in two weeks. After receiving feedback and realizing the wider deployment in hospitals, we started on phase two which is the upgraded design of phase one and completely different. It took us around two months and two more ventilators will soon be completed, Richard Madanda the Director of Product Development at KMC said.

A truly unique Ugandan medical  product

Mr. Paul  Isaac Musasizi, the Chief  Executive Officer s(CEO) at Kiira Motors said that the Bulamu medical ventilators are unique in a sense that they can be operated outside the ICU setting, can be fitted in ambulances thus making them mobile and have a solar powered battery that can be used as a back-up for two hours in case of  electricity power  outrages .   

The next steps

According to Mr. Allan Muhumuza the Business Development Manager at  KMC ,in the next two weeks’ time (June 25), the team will start Randomized Clinical Trials on human subjects, led by Anaesthesiologists and Epidemiologists from the College of Health Sciences, Makerere. The studies will commence with patients who are moderately ill, then scale to patients who are severely ill. These assessments will be conducted at the Uganda Heart Institute. Alongside all these tests, the engineering team will receive continuous feed-back to optimise the design. Thereafter, the team will seek pre-launch approval of the product from NDA and relevant quality certifications from UNBS, following which 40 ready-to-use units will be initially manufactured for the government of Uganda.

About Resilient Africa Network (RAN)

RAN is a multidisciplinary innovation development lab that leverages the creativity and talent of entrepreneurs, scholars, faculty and communities to develop and scale innovative ideas. The lab is based at Makerere University and was founded on the premise of bringing together scholars, a diverse array of industry players and entrepreneurs to co-create evidence-based solutions that build the resilience of communities facing recurrent shocks and stresses in Africa. We offer support to innovators in developing countries and launching their most compelling ideas, start-up enterprises and businesses that tackle the key development challenges in communities like disease epidemics, climate change, food insecurity, financial inclusion, rapid urbanization, and chronic conflict among others. .

What is the Bulamu ventilator

The Chief Engineer on the Bulamu medical ventilator project , Mr. Richard Madanda and Ms.  Pauline Korukundo the Vehicle Integration Manager at Kiira Motors  Corporation Ltd, said that  Bulamu is a medical ventilator – a machine that provides mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs, to deliver breaths to a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently. 

The various components that make up Bulamu were all sourced locally and include a box and stand  made at Victoria Engineering and Pumps, Printed Board made by Biiri Applied ICT Center, electronics supplied by Ihnovex –Makerere, Medical air and accessories by Uganda oxygen and back up batteries by Uganda Batteries .

How it works

  1. Connect the machine to air plus oxygen supply
  2. Plug in to power/solar backup
  3. Connect breathing grant to the patient
  4. Switch on the power supply-home screen
  5. Set the pressure
  6. Set the tidal volume
  7. Set breath per minute-respiratory rate
  8. The ventilation process begins
  9. Monitor the pressure, volume(tidal volume) Breath per minute as the patient improves.

The writer is Media and Communications Consultant and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda.


Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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