Daily US Times: A team of Afghan girls has turned its focus on making affordable ventilators out of car parts for coronavirus patients.
The group of teenagers made big headlines in 2017 when they won a special award at an international competition in the US.
Now they are racing against time to deliver affordable ventilators by the end of this month, at a fraction of the market price.
Afghanistan has maximum 400 ventilators for a population of 39 million.
The country has reported 178 deaths and 7,650 cases so far, but the authorities fear the situation could get worse and overwhelm an already fragile healthcare system.
Seventeen-year-old team member Nahid Rahimi said: “It’s important even if we can save one life with our effort.”
The girls’ group is known as ”Afghan Dreamers”. They come from the western province of Herat, where Afghanistan’s first coronavirus case was reported.
The area is Afghanistan’s hotspot for the pandemic because of its close proximity to Iran, the region’s epicentre of the outbreak.
The Afghan girls – all of them are between the age of 14 and 17- have built a prototype using a motor from a used Toyota Corolla and a chain drive from a Honda motorcycle.
They say their ventilators will give temporary relief to patients with respiratory difficulty in an emergency when standard ventilators are not available.
Somaya Faruqi, the captain of the team, said: “I feel so proud to be part of a team that is trying to do something meaningful to support our doctors and nurses – they are our heroes at this time.”
Coronavirus revealed a global shortage of ventilators. Its hefty price of $30,000 on the international market means many poorer countries can’t afford them.
But the girls said they are building the much-needed device for less than $600 each.
With the city of Herat is under lockdown and shops closed, the challenge that the girls are facing is travelling outside the province to source parts.
Roya Mahboob, the founder of the group and an entrepreneur who has been among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, says her team is still hoping to deliver the ventilators by the end of May.
She said the 70% work has finished. They only thing they are lacking is the air sensor, which we’re trying to source rather than build from scratch as it takes time.
“The first phase is complete and it was tested in a hospital two days ago. The team are working on phase two, which once completed can be introduced to the market,” the team leader said.
Female literacy rate in Afganistan is just 30%, but the teenage girls are hoping that their project will inspire others and change the perception of women in the engineering industry.
Another team member, Elham Mansori, 16, said: “It [being able to make ventilators] shows the importance of teaching girls at a young age and the role of women as active citizens in our society.”