“All those who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat”

Catching sight of the coast of Madagascar for the first time, Astrid Knoblauch was full of anticipation. Stepping onto Madagascar soil, Astrid Knoblauch takes in the song of the red fody birds and the vibration of a rusty Peugeot under foot. She is about to embark on an adventure that involves diving head-first into a new culture, getting bitten by a Fosa, and drones. Astrid talks to us about her inspiration for moving her life and work to Madagascar, what drone innovation means for the world of global health, and how with the right combination of perseverance, hard work and luck, technology has the capacity to greatly influence the lives of individuals, particularly in remote regions.

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world with 90% of its wildlife being found nowhere else on earth, has some unexpected innovation happening high above the baobab trees and vast rainforests. “There is something majestic and powerful about these Baobab trees,” said Astrid Knoblauch, a Swiss scientist at Swiss TPH and a resident of Madagascar since 2017. “…but have you ever seen them from above?”

Astrid has been working on the capability of drones to deliver TB diagnostic samples and drugs in rural areas of Madagascar. Not only do they give us a birds-eye view of the places in which we live and work, but they also have the capacity to fill existing gaps in healthcare.

Astrid, why Madagascar?

 

"It’s probably the question I was asked most… After my PhD, I was looking for an opportunity to work on a project from beginning to end, really being based at the scene of the event. One day, I walked into Marcel Tanner’s office – for a completely other reason – and asked, in passing, if he had a contact in Madagascar, upon which he replied “Send me your CV, I’m going there next week”. At the same time, I also heard through Swiss TPH colleagues, that a professor from Stony Brook University was looking for a postdoc on a drone project based in Madagascar. My supervisors and Swiss TPH at large have supported me throughout this professional journey, and I can only hope that my experiences gained here will benefit Swiss TPH in the future."

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