Seven years ago, villagers at Oltukai village in Monduli District, Arusha Region had to travel far distances for health services.
The village had no health facility and some healthcare services were considered luxury because of difficulties in getting them.
To save their lives, the villagers there relied on traditional medications and pregnant women gave birth in their homes. In serious complications, some who were not able to hire a car or motorcycles, had to walk many kilometers to get essential healthcare services from the district health centre.
The villagers were relieved from the hardship when the government decided to construct a dispensary in the village.
However, the dispensary by the time did not solve all the problems in healthcare. Oltukai dispensary did not have electricity to serve patients at night or provide services which depend on electricity.
The availability of electricity in any health facility has dozens of benefits including saving lives.
According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), approximately 12 per cent and 15 per cent of health-care facilities, respectively, from low- and lower-middle-income countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity.
The report shows that at least 25,000 health-care facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have no electricity access and 68,350 health-care facilities only have access to unreliable electricity. Only half of hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa have access to reliable electricity, the report shows.
Tanzania’s government and clean energy stakeholders have been investing heavily in electrifying rural areas including service facilities such as health centres through the Rural Electrification Energy initiatives but not all villages have been connected due to financial constraints.
Clean energy experts and investors said investing in solar power will reduce burden to people living in remote areas by providing reliable electricity.
Sisty Basil, an Executive Director at Elico Foundation, whose organization has installed solar systems in dozens of villages in Tanzania, said there is high demand for solar-powered systems in health facilities located outside the national grid in Tanzania.
So far, he said, the organization in partnership with the government and other stakeholders has managed to install large solar power systems that will act as a great backup or main source of power in health facilities of Lupembe Lwasenga, Oltukai and Eluwai.
The system can also run an ultra-sound machine and provide sufficient power to run a fridge for storage of vaccines and other lifesaving medicines.
“So far, we have served in five health centres in the three regions of Iringa, Dodoma and Arusha. The health centres of Dodoma (Leganga and Ngutoto) have been linked to the Solar Minigrid project,” said Basil, adding still more villages need the service.
“We decided to invest our resources in this area because there are other economic projects that run on solar power…we want to ensure that the community we serve gets the best health services so that it can participate in these development projects.”
The solution to these challenges, he said, is solar energy as it is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and can be installed quickly.
“Solar energy has a potential to power health appliances and thus improve people’s lives and enhance efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s),” he said.
Through the Rural Energy Agency (REA), the government has continued to ensure that all villages and neighborhoods have access to electricity, especially in hospitals, schools and households in general.
Story credit: Africa Energy portal