#UNCityzens: How health robotics is the future of delivering public health products

We met Liuichi Hara from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) who works as an innovation specialist. Liuichi explores the possibilities of using robotics to deliver health products to hard-to-reach areas.

The path to UN City

Liuichi originally comes from Los Angeles, California and his way to Denmark was long and winding.  At University of Southern California he completed his bachelor in International Relations, which paved the way for jobs in the corporate world in Tokyo and New York.

In 2010 Liuichi moved to Grenoble in France to initiate his master studies within business and biotechnology. While in France a friend invited him to visit Copenhagen for the first time:

“I came in the summer and the weather was amazing – the atmosphere in the city was so relaxed and I really liked it. I found Copenhagen interesting and was surprised by the number of UN agencies, so I figured I would give it a try.”

With his educational background an internship with UNFPA was the perfect fit. Today, Liuichi works full time at UNFPA as a Supply Chain Innovation Specialist.

“Working within the UN system is of course completely different from working in the corporate world and poses different challenges. Being here in UN City I really enjoy the vibrant and dynamic environment.”

Bridging gaps

An efficient supply chain is crucial to UNFPA’s work of delivering life-saving and life-changing health products to developing countries. However, seasonal weather, natural disasters and bad infrastructure pose challenges. As an example when a road gets flooded the products cannot reach the health clinics. Not only will people not be able to get the treatment they need, they may also lose faith in the public health system.

“It is all about behaviour. For the people we help it can be a great sacrifice to take a day off in order to go to a health clinic. If a person decides to seek help at one of the health clinics, the necessary products have to be there. Otherwise, the person may lose faith in the clinic and may not come back.”

To bridge the gaps in the supply chain, Liuichi experiments with a number of solutions with one being unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Each UAV can cover a large area and carry up to a few kilograms. Being aerial, the UAVs are not affected by challenges on the ground such as a flooded road. In that way, critical health supplies can be transported directly to the health clinics by maximizing use of aerial delivery services via UAVs.

Being part of innovation

The project is still in its early stage being tested and assessed at an Unmanned Aerial System test center, as well as in the field. Liuichi predicts that it may be up and running in 4-5 years. The goal is not to replace existing transportation modes, but to augment supply channels.

“I am very inspired by working with emerging and promising tech. I find it fascinating to see what the future will bring and to be a part of that journey.”



         UNFPA and Supply Chains

  • Part of UNFPA’s work is to help countries build stronger health systems and widen access to a reliable supply of contraceptives and live-saving medicines for maternal health
  • Supply chain management is complex management of the flow of information, finance and goods from end-to-end to ensure the right product, at the right place and at the right time
  • In the view of UNFPA, there is a need to improve existing supply chain management to ensure that commodities reach those who need them, when they need them
  • UNFPA is one of the largest providers of contraceptives
  • Contraceptives provided in 2014 had potential to avert an estimated:
    • 8 million unintended pregnancies
    • 24,000 maternal deaths
    • 138,000 child deaths
    • 8 million abortions

Click here to read more about UNFPA

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