COVID-19 Innovation in Ethiopia

As part of our response to COVID-19, Lifebox is supporting innovations to improve the safety of healthcare workers and patients during the pandemic.

As part of our response to COVID-19, Lifebox is supporting innovations to improve the safety of healthcare workers and patients during the pandemic.

In Ethiopia, where Lifebox is a registered NGO and works closely with the Federal Ministry of Health on the Clean Cut Program, this innovation work has two streams  –  N95 decontamination and reuse, and medical equipment maintenance.

Medical Equipment Maintenance

We’ve teamed up with Tegbareid Polytechnic College (PC)  and the Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team (ECRT) – a global volunteer team of more than 1,800 professionals including engineers, doctors, designers, marketers, architects and product managers working to combat COVID-19 in Ethiopia. 

Lifebox is supporting Tegbareid PC and ECRT’s Medical Device Maintenance Project. The project is repairing existing medical devices at a critical time for healthcare facilities in Ethiopia. The equipment – from hospitals across the country – has included diagnostic equipment such as patient monitoring systems, pulse oximeters and electrocardiographs.

We realized that there are many things that need to get done to combat the virus. However, we identified that the Medical Device Maintenance Project was one of the high impact ones that we should focus on. It’s a quick way to help the hospitals in Ethiopia. This partnership with Lifebox has made us appreciate the level of dedication and trust we have built together. It helped us to understand the core of the issue and witness the results of working in close partnerships with organizations that have similar goals.” Keneni Dibaba & Mateos Kassa, Project Leads, ECRT 

 “Since the first date that Covid-19 was identified in our country, our college has engaged in different voluntary activities. Maintaining biomedical equipment which can be used for curing patients of corona, is one among many. While we enroll in such activities, we face a shortage of accessories and spare parts and should look for support from others. Together with ECRT and Lifebox we are working on getting these accessories, it helps us to deliver these machines and help the people who are in need of it.” Ato Teshome Hmbissa, Trainees’ Development Dean,  Tegbareid Polytechnic College, Addis Ababa

UV-C Decontamination and Reuse of N95 Respirators

In another area of innovation Lifebox is working on a project piloting the use of UV-C irradiation to decontaminate N95 masks. As the cases of COVID-19 continue to grow at an alarming rate, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to outstrip production, resulting in PPE shortages. This shortage of PPE is putting the lives of healthcare providers at-risk worldwide. The shortage of N95 masks is especially severe and many medical facilities are looking at ways to safely decontaminate and reuse the typically single-use masks to best ration limited supplies. 

Lifebox is collaborating with N95DECON and the Optical Society of America Foundation, Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAiT) and St.Peter’s Specialized Hospital to build and pilot a project testing decontamination using UV-C cabinets – a disinfection method that kills or inactivates microorganisms. 

The team has engineered a closed cabinet system to deliver the correct dose of UV-C irradiation for decontamination of N95 respirators and is capable of decontaminating 16 N95 masks in five minutes. The cabinets are being piloted by 25 teams across 11 countries. Lifebox is supporting the piloting of this work – including parts, assembly, testing and delivery – of a UV-C cabinet to St Peter’s Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The first cabinet is under construction, with technical support from the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology and designing engineers at Stanford University. 

“Ethiopia is currently one of East Africa’s most impacted nations relative to new COVID-19 case growth and infection rate. Given the current trend, it is clear that the nation might be in chronic shortage of devices and equipment used for COVID-19 intervention. Scarce government and donors’ funds are being exploited as an intervention mechanism. This project is expected to lessen the chronic shortage of N95 masks in Ethiopian hospitals. Further collaborations with Lifebox are envisioned to be initiated post COVID.” Dr. Dawit Assefa – Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering,  Addis Ababa Institute of Technology. 


The cabinet door has a sensor and the decontamination process will not start unless properly closed. There are eight bulbs with eight external LED light indicators so that the functionality of the UV bulbs are easy to monitor and change when necessary. The cabinet has a five minute timer and stops the process at the exact time. The overall design is simple to construct and allows for rapid throughput, ease-of-use, low electrical power requirements and no need for toxic chemicals to decontaminate.  

“This collaborative effort really captures the spirit of Lifebox – implementing flexible, low-cost and innovative solutions guided by and responding to the needs of our clinical partners. The strong teamwork and collaborations built over a long history of engagement with clinical and institutional partners in Ethiopia make this an ideal setting for initial implementation – our hope is the use of these cabinets will keep precious healthcare workers safe while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Nichole Starr, Lifebox Senior Fellow, N95Decon member and Clinical Implementation Lead for the UV-C Cabinet Decontamination Project)

We look forward to updating you on these exciting innovations in the coming weeks and months. Please support Lifebox’s COVID-19 response and help keep patients and providers safe.