All healthcare facilities in the poorest countries could be electrified using solar energy within five years for less than $5 billion, ending the risk of death from power outages, experts will argue at Cop28 this month.
“I would like the international community to commit to a timeline and funding to electrify all healthcare facilities,” said Salvatore Vinci, sustainable energy advisor for World magazine. Health Organization and member of its Cop28 delegation. “We now have solutions that were not available 10 years ago; There is no reason why babies should die today because there is no electricity to power their incubators.
“It is a ripe fruit. There is nothing stopping us,” she stated.
About one billion people around the world do not have access to a health facility with a stable electrical connection, including 433 million in low-income countries who rely on facilities with no electricity at all, according to the WHO report. Energizing health: accelerating access to electricity in healthcare facilities Report, which was published in January and of which Vinci is co-author.
Electricity is the lifeblood of a functioning healthcare facility, not only powering devices such as ventilators and heart monitors, but also providing basic services such as lighting. Without these basic facilities, even routine conditions can be affected. fatal or cause complications. Healthcare facilities in countries vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather events will often experience outages due to storms and flooding.
“We don’t know how many people die each year due to power outages. “No one puts ‘power failure’ as a cause of death on a death certificate,” said Hippolite Amadi, professor of bioengineering at Imperial College London. “As we speak, patients in low- and middle-income countries are dying due to power outages and poor lighting. “They are dying because their life support machines were turned off, or because staff gave them the wrong medication who couldn’t see what they were doing, or because the surgeon working in the dark made a mistake.”
While a lack of lighting puts maternal and surgical patients at greater immediate risk, an unreliable power source makes long-term treatments, such as kidney dialysis, unsustainable. As the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increases in the global south, pressure on poorly electrified facilities will increase.
“The best surgeon in the world can’t do a good job if he can’t see what he’s doing,” said Emmanuel Makasa, an orthopedic surgeon in Zambia, who has sometimes had to work using a flashlight or the light from his mobile phone. “You would never ask a tailor to work in the dark, why would you expect the same from a doctor?”
In Zambia, 60% of the rural population According to the government, they do not have access to a health center with electricity, and even in large hospitals connected to the national grid the electricity supply is temperamental, Makasa said.
“Sometimes the lights in the operating room go off without warning, and that means the ventilators and life support machines go off too,” he said. He recently purchased a surgical headlamp made by the international organization Lifebox. “This means we go into surgery with fewer worries, there is nothing worse than losing a patient or having a bad surgical outcome due to a power outage.
“In Africa, we are always looking for innovations. We wonder how we live in a land of sunlight, a potential source of energy, and we still have these problems,” Makasa said. “We live in a land of plenty, but we are starving.”
Amadi worked to electrify maternal health centers in the Nigerian state of Niger as early as 2009. In October, her solar-powered neonatal ventilator won a prestigious Nigerian award and earned praise from the president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for “keeping Nigerian children alive.”
“Before we implemented the solar energy system, the mortality rate in (one of our hospitals) was between 35 and 45 per 1,000 (baby) deliveries,” said Mohammed Gana of the Niger State Ministry of Health. Amadi’s former colleague. “Now we’re hovering between 10 and 15.”
The Niger State Ministry of Health aims to electrify all its health facilities using solar energy within the next year. “In the last 10 years, the cost of photovoltaic modules has decreased by 90% and the cost of batteries has decreased by 60% on average,” Vinci said. “We can implement a cost-effective and reliable solar energy system at a facility in a matter of a few days. “We don’t need to wait any longer.”