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Nig. to use solar energy for health facilities

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By Mercy Kelani

1 billion people, globally, lack access to an electrified healthcare facility.

It has been projected that experts, at COP28 later this month, will argue that every healthcare facility in poorer countries could become electrified though solar energy, within half a decade, as this will put an end to the risk and loss of life from power outages. Salvatore Vinci, an adviser on sustainable energy at the World Health Organization (WHO), said he would appreciate that the international community commits to a deadline and ensure funding for the electrification of all healthcare facilities.

Also a member of WHO’s COP28, Salvatore stated that there are now solutions that were unavailable one decade ago. Hence, there is no justifiable reason why babies should die today as a result of unavailable electricity to power incubators. Across the world, about 1 billion people lack access to an healthcare facilities with constant power supply. This is even as 433 million people in low-income countries depend on facilities without power supply, according to WHO’s report.

Lack of these basic facilities could lead to complication.

Electricity is regarded as the backbone of any functioning healthcare facility as it powers devices like cardiac monitors and ventilators, and ensures provision of basic amenities like lighting. Lack of these basic facilities could lead to complications of even regular conditions. Due to storms and flooding, healthcare facilities across the country experience vulnerability to the effects of extreme weather conditions. There is no account of the number of people who die annually due to power outages.

Hippolite Amadi, bio-engineering professor at Imperial College London, stated that no one tags power outage on a death certificate as a cause of death. Currently, he said, there are deaths of patients in low- and middle-income nations as a result of poor lighting and lack of power supply. Their deaths were either caused by the switching off of their life-support machines, or wrong medication administering by staff who had no light to see what they were doing.

60% of Zambia lack access to an electrified healthcare facility.

He also said that people die because the surgeon, who is working without lighting, made a mistake. Without lighting, surgery and maternal patients are at immediate risk. Also, an unreliable source of energy makes long-term treatments like kidney dialysis unfeasible. Likewise, there would be an increased strain on poorly electrified facilities as chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD) spurs in the global south. Emmanuel Makasa, an orthopaedic surgeon in Zambia, said that the world-best surgeon cannot do an impressive work without light to see what he is doing.

According to Makasa, 60 percent of the rural population in Zambia lack access to an electrified healthcare facility. He said that power supplies are not stable in big hospitals that are connected to the national grid. He explained that sometimes, the lights in the operating theatre goes off without prior warning, and resultantly, all life-support machines and ventilators go off too. This recurrent happening made the orthopaedic surgeon to buy a surgical headlight — made by Lifebox, an international organisation.

Solar-powered neonatal ventilator invented in Nigeria.

Additionally, Makasa asserted that Africans are always seeking innovations. He described Africa as a land of sunlight, which is a potential source of energy. In 2009, Amadi worked towards the electrification of maternal healthcare facilities in Niger State, Nigeria. In October 2023, the solar-powered neonatal ventilator he invented won the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Science, receiving commendations from the President of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for choosing to preserve the lives of Nigerian children from mortality.

Related Link

Imperial College: Website

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