HERAT, Afghanistan — A few teenage girls in Afghanistan have taken matters into their own hands in the fight against COVID-19 in their country. The Afghan Dreamers, an entirely female robotics team, has created low-cost ventilators from used car parts for use in hospitals. Learn how these Afghani girls built COVID-19 ventilators to help fight against the virus.
COVID-19 in Afghanistan
Predictions said the virus would enter the country around March, similar to most of the world. However, there was much unrest in the country due to a large outbreak in the neighboring country of Iran. The situation in Afghanistan was critical during the virus’s peak season, and since then the numbers suggest that the rate of positive cases has decreased. There are more than 44,000 confirmed cases in the country, and around 1,600 have died. The area with the highest number of confirmed cases in Kabul, Afghanistan, the capital of the country and the largest city. Kabul recently confirmed nearly 16,000 cases.
The entire country has taken limited preventative measures to slow the spread of the virus since its swift lockdown in early March. Many families could not afford to stay home and still provide for families, so the health crisis turned dire when food instability became a priority. Since then, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, believes nearly 90% of Afghans live on just 10 cents above the international poverty line a day. The critical situation the country finds itself in is why this girls robotics team’s low-cost initiative has become necessary and why Afghani girls built COVID-19 ventilators.
With only a few hundred working ventilators in the country, the nation needs more medical equipment. Moreover, the robotics team’s ventilators are in high demand because the average cost of a ventilator is $30,000 to $50,000. However, the Afghani girls built COVID-19 ventilators that are low-cost and could sell at a staggeringly low $500.
The Afghan Dreamers Robotics Team
Abdul Qayum Rahimi, the Governor of Herat, commissioned the Afghan Dreamers along with other professionals in the medical field to design low-cost ventilators. The Afghan Dreamers formed only three years ago and have had significant accomplishments in robotics and science competitions. Roya Mahboob, an Afghan tech entrepreneur, created the team of high school girls to increase awareness of women in STEM. In a country where only a third of its female population can read and write, it was an important initiative.
About Their Low-Cost Ventilators
The team found a model that professionals at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology created. Then, they replicated and altered that model to reduce the price. The low-tech model was important for their design to keep a low material cost. The model is flexible with its materials, which is why the ventilators the robotics team created came from reused car parts. For example, they used windshield wipers from used Toyota Corollas to build the ventilator prototype.
Another explanation for the low-priced machine is that they are mechanizing a previously hand-operated ventilator. With limited healthcare workers in the country, they needed an automatic design to support the overflow of patients. The Afghan Dreamers’ ventilator does not replicate the mechanized ventilators that other countries manufacture. Instead, these improved machines serve as a last resort for patients in “life-or-death situations.”
These amazing Afghani girls built COVID-19 ventilators. Now there is a prototype and they are only making minor adjustments to alter the machine to specific breathing patterns. Then, the machine will go under trials to be approved for use in hospitals.
– Josie Collier