She is only four-weeks-old, but Joy Nowai has already made history.

She is the first child to be immunised with vaccines delivered by drone in the remote village of Cook’s Bay, Vanuatu.

For a remote village that has no access to health centres or electricity and is only accessible by foot or by small local “banana” boats - it is a big deal.

In Vanuatu, which is made up of more than 80 islands, one in five children miss out on vaccinations because their communities are so hard to reach.
One-month old Joy Nowai, became the world's first child to be given a vaccine delivered by drone in a remote island in Vanuatu. On the right, she is pictured with her father, mother and big sister. © UNICEFPacific/Chute
Donate Now
"I know it's important for her to be healthy."
Joy missed her first vaccines after birth because no nurses were available in her village that week and the nearest health centre was too far for her mother, Julie, to walk.

“I am so happy the drone brought the stick medicine to Cook’s Bay as I don’t have to walk several hours to Port Narvin for her vaccines,” Julie says.

“I know it’s important for her [Joy] to be healthy.”

​The drone travelled 40 kilometres across the island of Erromango before landing in Cook’s Bay.

After a short 25 minute flight, the drone landed and was welcomed by a crowd of people - including families who walked several kilometres just to witness the landing - and greeted by a traditional dance marking the beginning of something “new” and “good”.

Among them was baby Joy, who was waiting to be immunised against tuberculosis and hepatitis B by local nurse Miriam Nampil.

In the past, Miriam would normally trek for several hours over mountainous terrain, carrying an ice box to keep vaccines cool. It is just like transporting a block of ice. If at any stage the vaccine’s temperature drops below two degrees or rises above eight, it can become unusable.

Her only other option was by boat, which was often cancelled due to bad weather or dangerous sea conditions with waves reaching as high as three to five metres.
Nurses have previously had to trek for hours through difficult conditions to deliver vaccines to children in remote parts of Vanuatu. © UNICEFPacific
Donate Now

“It’s extremely hard to carry ice boxes to keep the vaccines cool while walking across rivers, mountains, through the rain and across rocky ledges,” Miriam, 55, says.

“It might take at least two or more hours to trek each way to get across to Cook’s Bay to vaccinate the children and to return back home in the evening on the same day.

“As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only get there once a month to vaccinate children."
"But now, with these drones, we can
hope to reach many more children
in the remotest areas of the island
A before and after of what immunising children was like for nurses.  © UNICEFPacific/Chute

UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government began trialling the use of two drones companies, Germany's WingCopter and Australia's Swoop Aero, thanks to funding from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) innovationXchange. 

The two drone companies commenced their trials in December 2018. Swoop Aero has since moved to phase two, becoming the first commercial drone to deliver a vaccine to a baby.

A lot of progress has been made in Vanuatu over the past five years to increase the vaccination coverage, however many children and parents still face challenges in accessing all of the recommended routine shots.

Already, 13 children and five pregnant women have been vaccinated by Miriam thanks to the drone delivery.

“The drone project will change my life,” Miriam says.
"I'm really excited to receive the
drone and retrieve the vaccines
for the babies in Cook's Bay
Donate Now
Left: Miriam prepares the vaccines. Right: A mother and son line up to be immunised by the vaccines delivered by drone. © UNICEFPacific/Chute
Donate to help
Fearless Deliveries for Children Caught in Conflict

Select your donation details

Please enter or select amount and your donation frequency

All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible. ABN 35 060 581 437. Calculate your potential tax benefit here.

If you'd prefer to make your donation over the phone, please call our Supporter Relations team on 1300 884 233.

This is how we use your donation

82 cents was a contribution to children, either supporting our international and domestic programs or community education on children's issues within Australia.

6 cents were spent on UNICEF Australia’s accountability, administration and reserves.

12 cents per dollar from funds raised by the public went to investing in further growing fundraising in Australia, to increase our impact for children.

Percentages shown as a proportion of operating expenditure which excludes non-monetary expenditure and fundraising costs funded through UNICEF grants. UNICEF Australia’s contribution to children includes funds to international and domestic programs, together with local program support costs and community education expenditure which informs and educates Australians on child rights.