UP Chemical Engineering joins fight against COVID-19 with hand sanitisers for paediatricians at Steve Boko Academic Hospital

Posted on April 06, 2020

A University of Pretoria chemical engineering student who has started a project to donate hand sanitiser to paediatricians at Steve Biko Academic Hospital has shown how in difficult times such as these, community needs can be addressed by creating team-based solutions enabling those with the capacity to help where they can.

When Jaco-Louis Venter, a fourth-year student at UP’s Department of Chemical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), became aware of the concerns doctors at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital Department of Paediatrics and Child Health were having over the availability of hand sanitiser amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he approached the staff of the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering for help.

“It is so easy to get caught up in your studies that you forget why you chose to prepare for a specific career in the first place. I chose chemical engineering as it creates so many opportunities to contribute to our society. I am very grateful for this opportunity to do something that might actually make a real difference,” Venter said.

Apart from generous donations from lecturing staff’s research supplies of ethanol and glycerol, the departmental facilities were also used to produce hand sanitiser following the World Health Organization’s recommended hand rub formulation. With the assistance of Gerrie Claassen, the laboratory manager, and Franco Pretorius, a master’s student at the Department, and multiple contributions from the staff of the Department, they were able to produce enough hand sanitiser before the national lockdown to supply the doctors of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at SBAH with a bottle each. 

The team is currently working to acquire more supplies to continue production. The aim is to continue production for as long as possible during the pandemic.

“We appreciate the overwhelming positive response to our situation tremendously. These supplies will be of great help in the coming days,” said Professor Izelle Smuts, a paediatric neurologist at SBAH.

Should anyone like to contribute to the effort, please contact UP’s Department of Chemical Engineering at [email protected].

- Author EBIT Faculty

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