Government in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has started rolling solar systems in hospitals and clinics under Solar for Health project, an effort which seeks to upgrade public health service in the country.
The Solar for Health (S4H) project has been implemented through partnership between UNDP and Ministry of Health & Child Care, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and other stakeholders, with funding from the Global Fund.
The initiative started in 2016 with the conceptualisation, approval of budget and contracting of the suppliers.
UNDP resident representative Georges van Montfort told Herald Finance & Business that the aim of the project was to strengthen the national public health system and contribute to increase access to and provision of quality health services with clean and reliable power supply to health facilities across the country.
“UNDP supports approximately 1,2 million people on Antiretroviral Treatment in Zimbabwe. Reliable power supply at the warehouses and health facilities will ensure that storage of ARVs, Lab reagents and consumables are done within the recommended temp to ensure their efficacies; lab equipment are functional to perform testing for proper diagnosis; the health information system is functional and able to transmit timely complete data for reporting and decision-making. “This project will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and the achievements of four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely SDG 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), SDG 3 (Ensure health Lives and well-being for all at all ages), SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), and SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact),”
The project is running in phases, on the first phase the completed installations of 405 was done and it cost US$8,1 million and in the second phase the installations of additional 642 solar systems took place and it cost about US$10,6 million and its still ongoing.
Installing solar systems in rural hospitals and clinics improves the sustainability of livelihoods among the rural poor, answers the call for frequent power cuts and could be a long-term solution for energy requirements within such institutions.
Most health centres especially in rural areas rely on generators for power, which is not sustainable owing to high costs of fuel and uncertainty over the availability of power supplies to run their big machines.
Among the hardest hit by worsening electricity shortages across the country are clinics, particularly in marginalised areas.
The crisis forced midwives to use candles, torches and cell phones for lighting in some hospitals.
The country gets much of its electricity from hydropower, but water levels in Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made reservoir, have plummeted though it rises a bit owing to this year’s heavy rainfall.
Kariba is meant to contribute 819 megawatts (MW) towards meeting the country’s peak national demand of 1,345 MW, but output from the lake has fallen.
Critically, investment in solar energies will reduce national greenhouse gas emissions – believed to be the biggest driver of global warming and climate change.
At the same time, such strategies will precipitate Zimbabwe’s transition into a low carbon energy economy.
Ministry of Health and Child Care acting director Engineer Frank Chiku said installing solar in hospitals ensures guaranteed power shortages which will disrupt services delivery.
“This project will make sure that there is uninterrupted power supply in our health facilities. Health care service will be provided at any time. Waiting mothers will now be housed in shelters with lights instead of candles.
“Establishments like hospitals and other medical institutions have a high demand for power and as such installing solar panels is the way to go for such organisations.”