The COVID-19 outbreak has led institutions to explore their creative and innovative potentials. Being centers of an intellectual hub, Universities worldwide have come forward with innovative means to tackle the unprecedented global challenge that has claimed the lives of multitudes. Jimma University, one of the senior Universities in Ethiopia, has proactively engaged in the fight against this pandemic by developing research-based and innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The University’s efforts have recently been recognized by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MOSHE) as an exemplar putting JU among the six universities in the country to have exerted significant efforts in the fight against the pandemic.
In the determined fight to win the COVID-19 battle, JU’s resolute staff members have come up with innovative technologies that assist the fight. The search for innovative solutions amidst the crisis has led to the development of prototypes for UV technology.
The creative solutions by JU’s team of innovators are gaining acclamation at the national level.
Habtamu Abafoge and his team at Simbona Africa are helping to solve this problem. Habtamu’s training as a biomedical engineer at Jimma University equipped him with just the skills needed for such a situation; applying engineering principles to solve medical problems. After his studies, he founded Simbona Africa, the company he would use to take his products to market.
The JU-Simbona Design Lab at the Jimma Medical Center Center for Biomedical Engineering is contributing its share towards the prevention and containment of the global pandemic COVID-19.
The center has developed a local UV room sterilizer used for hospital rooms, wards, and medical equipment. The apparatus has 8 watts UVC lamps that emit high-intensity ultraviolet light that hits the surface in the room and kills any microorganism or pathogens including viruses. The UVC technology locally developed is used for disinfection and sterilization, and is said to disinfect up to 40 square meters of the room area. Habtamu designed and built 30 UVC room sterilizers and 5 UVC decontamination cabinets - four of which were purchased by St Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC). The room sterilizers were designed for decontaminating open spaces such as hospital wards, ambulances, and other facilities that have been used by COVID patients. They can also be used to decontaminate high human traffic areas such as classrooms, hotel rooms, and gyms.
St Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) is one of the advantages of this technology, staff members are now able to reuse each N-95 mask 10 times before it is eventually disposed of. This except for those working in high-risk areas such as the ICU and those performing aerosol-generating procedures. With about 300 staff members, each using one mask a day, the hospital was spending about $750 daily to keep staff members safe. Simona decontamination cabinets are helping them save about $20,000 monthly. This while reducing the risk of patient-clinician and clinician-clinician transmission of COVID-19.
The cabinets were designed to decontaminate objects such as tools and consumables. Both devices have undergone rigorous lab testing to ensure efficacy in killing pathogens and have been approved by the Ethiopian Radiation Agency as safe for use within the parameters provided in the user manuals.
The leader of the project designed by Team Simbona, Habtamu Abafoge has indicated that the apparatuses are ready for market and that the team has developed a complete document describing how the apparatus works, its effectiveness, safety references, and precautions, technical specification, general operations, and laboratory test results.
Habtamu has great aspirations for the future, “I want to see my medical technologies in all hospital wards soon,” he says, talking about his vision. “I never really thought my efforts would be recognized at this level. Representing Ethiopia is everything, it creates and strengthens the idea that anything is possible to the younger generation” Habtamu adds that he is grateful that his hard work has created social impact and is considered as paving a way to medical technology in Africa. Our aim is to see real change in medical technology and see our innovation in every hospital wards bringing holistic change to our country,