Another 41 African countries have fewer than 2,000 working ventilators combined, according to The Washington Post.
Ventilators can save lives of coronavirus patients when the disease has caused the lungs to fail. The medical machines take over the body’s breathing process and offer patients the best chance of survival.
A team of six engineers at Senegal’s Thies Polytechnic college in Dakar are collaborating on the project after one of the project members, Professor Ousmane Seydi, read a scientific paper describing how to make low-cost ventilators.
The country’s medical professionals have also gathered a wealth of experience from developing vaccines and treatments for several diseases including yellow fever and dengue fever.
Healthcare infrastructure is generally considered substandard, with hospitals and clinics unable to cover the entire population and experiencing overcrowding, according to PacificPrime.
The COVID-19 virus attacks people’s lungs and, in severe cases, can compromise a person’s ability to breathe.
The computerized, bedside ventilators are crucial to keep people alive in these cases as they deliver air to the lungs through a tube placed in the windpipe.
With ventilators in high demand globally, the U.S. and European manufacturers have said that they are unable to speed up production enough in the short term to meet the demand, The New York Times reports.
If approved by health authorities in Senegal, the engineers claim that they could produce about 50 ventilators a week if provided with the necessary resources, according to TVCNews.
Senegal has reported 1,024 coronavirus cases and nine deaths from the disease.
Cases in Africa are 38,825 and 1,634 deaths have been reported.
The 3D printed ventilators are not the only innovation Senegal is producing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to inexpensive ventilators, coronavirus testing kits are being developed by Senegalese researchers for manufacture in Senegal.
They could cost $1 each and return results in as little as 10 minutes, according to CNN.
This compares favorably with tests used in the U.S. that cost between $50 and $100 and take between one to three days for results to come back.
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Senegalese scientists at the Pasteur Institute of Dakar are helping to develop the handheld coronavirus test kit alongside U.K.-based laboratory Mologic and research firms from five other countries, The Washington Post reported.
Senegal is expected to begin producing the test kits in June.