These Bognor Regis Fridge Makers Are Helping Save Lives All Over the World
From an English seaside town to Djibouti — a British invention is protecting children from disease.
In a small seaside town on the south coast of England, something amazing is happening that’s helping to deliver life-saving vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.
And it’s all to do with fridges.
Refrigerator manufacturer Polestar Cooling, based in Bognor Regis in West Sussex, has partnered with solar cold chain experts Dulas to produce solar-powered fridges.
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These fridges are now being used to store and preserve vaccines in countries where power supplies can’t always be relied on. This is really important because if vaccines aren’t kept at the right temperature, they can deteriorate and become unusable.
Dulas — which has four offices in total across Britain and hires around 80 staff — invented the first-ever solar-powered medical fridge back in 1982. Today, it’s one of the world leaders in solar-powered medical equipment.
One of the best things about the fridges being solar-powered is that they don’t need to use a battery, which would need replacing every two years in hot countries.
And with the help of the UK’s Department for International Development and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Polestar and Dulas are delivering their fridges to support vaccination efforts in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, brings together governments, NGOs, scientists, innovators, and vaccinators to help ensure that every single child has access to vaccinations — and since it launched in 2000 it has vaccinated 700 million children and saved 10 million lives.
Today, thanks to Gavi’s work, some 80% of children in the world’s poorest countries are now immunised with basic vaccines.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said: “Vaccines are not like normal pharmaceuticals — they are extremely sensitive to temperature and can quickly become ineffective if they are not kept cold at all times.”
“That’s why innovative solar refrigerators like those produced here by Dulas are so important,” he added in a statement. “They ensure that even the most remote community with no access to electricity can still protect their children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.”
“Working with the private sector, we are bringing together a great partnership of British expertise, British business, and UK aid to save lives and empower communities across the globe,” he said.
Gavi focuses its work in the 68 poorest countries in the world, funding vaccines that prevent some of the most deadly diseases for children, including pneumonia, diarrhoea, and measles.
Right now the Bognor Regis fridges are specifically going to Djibouti and Togo, in East Africa and West Africa respectively. Already this month, Dulas — which also has offices in Wales and Scotland — has delivered 113 solar medical fridges to Togo, and it also sent 26 to Djibouti last year.
What’s more, between 2015 and 2017, the company installed almost 2,000 fridges with support from Gavi, so children in countries like Myanmar and Sierra Leone are now getting access to these life-saving vaccines.
“From the telephone to the solar fridge, British invention and innovation continues to make a huge difference across the world,” said Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, in a statement.
“UK aid is a badge of hope for millions of people, and that starts with the work of fantastic Brits like those manufacturing these life-saving devices in Bognor Regis,” she added. “Our work with Gavi not only protects over half of the world’s children from disease, but tackles outbreaks before they can reach our shores.”
In December, Global Citizen headed to Gavi’s 2016-2020 Mid-Term Review Meeting, hosted in Abu Dhabi by UAE Aid, to celebrate Gavi’s success over the past 18 years — and to hear about the challenges in years to come.
A key message of the meeting was the need to keep striving to reach every single child with life-saving vaccinations — and that means finding new and innovative ways to reach children in the most rural areas, as well as in urban slums.
Innovation in the supply chain — such as the fridges manufactured in Bognor Regis — is an essential factor in the goal of reaching 100% of children, wherever they’re born.