Chris Nsamba Ugandan engineer shares how he locally developed Africa's first baby incubator

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The project cost Nsamba about $9,000-$12,000

play Chris Nsamba: Ugandan engineer shares how he locally developed Africa's first baby incubator (Courtesy)

In 2015, Chris Nsamba saw a spark of light from his tunnel of innovations. He successfully completed the production of what he says is Africa's first baby incubator.

The highly advanced machine is described by its creator as the best in the whole world because of its advanced technology in monitoring the health of premature babies.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is being used at Mukono health centre IV where it has saved scores of premature babies.

The engineer, whose workshop in Ntinda, a Kampala suburb, is home to several of his innovations talked to Pulse Live Uganda about his popular Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

When did you develop the incubator?

The manufacturing started in 2015 and it took about 5 to 6 months. It was finished mid-2015. That is when it got done.

Were you using locally available materials or you imported?

That thing is fully manufactured from here. It's not assembled. It's fully manufactured here from ground zero. We have a small workshop where we operate. That is the good part of it, It's not assembled but manufactured.

play Chris Nsamba: Ugandan engineer shares how he locally developed Africa's first baby incubator (Courtesy)


Is it the only incubator you have manufactured since 2015?

It's the only one because such projects are really complicated. That machine is too automated. It has some artificial intelligence built into, it's too automated more than any baby incubator you can find on the internet and the way it takes care of the baby, it's using more advanced techniques. That is why it's being used only for complicated cases now. It does a very good job more than what is available anywhere.

About the complications; its technology too complicated and the part of deploying it. Here we are talking about the Ministry of Health (Moh) closing its eyes and taking chances on someone's technology. It's not something for them to do. Other people who were trying to do it were "chewing" money through the project.

MoH had to really close their eyes -- it's actually Dr Diana Atwine who closed her eyes. She said all countries which became, they became better through sacrifice. Good enough the machine did well and as of today, we are at 58 babies and I'm glad everything proved my point. If your technology doesn't work out right and people lose their lives, who is going to take chances on you anymore? It was a very sensitive move on my side. Good enough we got victory 100%.

Also Read: Ugandan wins Africa Prize for his bloodless malaria detection device

play Chris Nsamba: Ugandan engineer shares how he locally developed Africa's first baby incubator (Courtesy)


What were some of the challenges you faced when you were building this sophisticated machine?

It was to do with funding. The technology was handy, we never needed any help, we never asked anyone outside; we never involved any foreign assistance on this project. We had to self-fund ourselves.

Would you go mass production if the government invested in your project?

Yes. We could go mass production. The most important thing is we never started this project to make profits, we never started it to make money, we never started it to compete with anyone. We executed this project to save lives. That is why you see no one has paid us off but we donated out the machine. At the end of the day, it's about saving lives. The more lives we save, the wide the smile is. We just want to make projects and save lives.

How does this incubator work?

I installed very many features to the level that I don't remember them. It has over 300 features; it can monitor the baby's heart, oxygen in blood, lungs, the rhythm of the heart.

It has a security system which can monitor the baby in case someone tries to steal the baby.

It's programmed for remote control. We can give it commands over the internet and that technology has saved kids.

For example; one time all the nurses were delivering a baby at that hospital --because they are understaffed -- and on this side on the machine, the baby started running out of oxygen. The medical workers were unreachable over the phone. We had full control and we managed to activate the needful.

play Chris Nsamba: Ugandan engineer shares how he locally developed Africa's first baby incubator (Courtesy)


Other features include self-feeding (normal incubators, you need to add water overtime) -- this is self-controlled; it's feeding directing from the water tank. It feeds itself automatically. Its temperature and humid systems are very accurate, it has an inbuilt oxygen system, it produces oxygen for the baby.

Another thing where it beats other normal incubators is; in hospitals, they have machines which produce oxygen and those machines work with power. When power is off, they shut off. The week we installed our incubator at the hospital, the power went off -- in a normal incubator, a baby can die in less than 3 minutes. Our incubator has two backup systems of oxygen. The primary backup can run off the grid without power for 24hours and the secondary backup can run for about 2 hours but it can support five babies at the same time.

Are you saying the incubator can house about to 5 babies?

No. It can house up to three. However, if it is a state of emergency, the machine can supply oxygen to babies from the machine but when they are not in the machine. If the machine is full, it can supply oxygen externally.

How much did this project cost?

I will just give you an estimate. We were too busy to keep records. I think the construction costs between $9,000 to $12,000. The machine does a lot of things.

If we were to get the wires and put them in straight lines, they are over 4.2km. It's very complicated.

What other projects are you working on?

We have another incubator we are currently working on. It will be able to carry four babies. It will be like in the ones in the movies. We have something which is similar to those alien incubators in the movies where you see a fetus being raised.

This incubator will be locked on the wall and the babies are like hanging. I'm going to build it with more artificial decisions. It is going to be more advanced the one we built. We are going to beat our own record.

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