WATCH: Afghan girls build emergency ventilators out of car parts to fight COVID-19
There's a shortage of medical personnel and equipment in the war-torn country. Teenage girls are creating history during COVID-19 pandemic.
The Afghan Dreamers, an all-girls robotics team, is using spare parts to create a ventilator to boost the fight against the coronavirus and revolutionize Afghanistan’s health system.
The team first gained international attention when they had their visas rejected twice to the United States for the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge, a robotics competition.
After an outcry, the girls got the visa with intervention from the White House. They made it to the competition and they even won an award for courage.
“That award was a result of our hard work. It made us really happy. And it’s made us work even harder,” says team captain Somaya Faruqi.
The girls come from the western province of Herat, where Afghanistan’s first case of coronavirus was reported.
Unable to buy pieces online or at electronics stores, the girls found a way to get around their lack of traditional components. Most of the material they are using is actually from Toyota Corolla car parts found at markets. As Toyota Corolla cars are commonly found in Afghanistan, the prototype should be easy and cheap to replicate.
The team has been developing a prototype for about a month, working off of an open-source designed at MIT.
Dr. Douglas Chin, a surgeon in California, has been helping the team from afar.
The global shortage of ventilators is a problem and their hefty price of $30,000 (₨4.9M) to $50,000 (₨8M) on the global market means many poorer countries can’t afford them.
The team estimates that their ventilator should cost about $200 (around ₨32,000) if it’s produced at scale.
Afghanistan has a maximum of just 400 ventilators for a population of 38.9 million, while the coronavirus cases are surging with a record of more than 100% during the last ten days.
“Even if it saves just one patient’s life, I’ll be happy,” Faruqi says regarding the ambitious project.
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