Solar panels could save lives in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of power and electricity has long prevented those living in poverty from accessing quality healthcare services, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Governments in sub-Saharan Africa, including Zimbabwe and Zambia, are partnering with UNDP to launch Solar for Health, an initiative to bring solar technology to health centers in underserved communities and improve health outcomes for all.
"The Government of Zimbabwe desires to have the highest possible level of healthcare and quality of life for its citizens regardless of their geographical location," explained Clive Marimo, Director for Hospital Planning and Infrastructure in the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe told UNDP.
"Most primary health care facilities located remotely are off-grid and the solar project transformed the services of such facilities where basic procedures were not possible due to unavailability of a power source," he told UNDP.
5 ways #solarpower can make #universalhealthcare a reality:— UN Development (@UNDP) January 7, 2019
🔑 Unlock electricity for off-grid communities
💉 Reliable refrigeration for life-saving vaccines
💰 Save money
💪 resilient #healthcaresystems
Solar panels are already operating at more than 400 health facilities across the region, enabling them to consistently turn the lights on, use medical equipment, and refrigerate vital medicines and vaccines.
For those doctors performing surgery or delivering babies, the availability of solar power could be especially useful and could help save lives.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Many of these deaths stem from preventable causes, but poverty, distance from medical facilities, and lack of adequate medical services contribute to the high rates of maternal mortality, according to the World Health Organization.
Giving birth in a rural community after dark — without a stable source of electricity in the delivery room — can add further complications to the birthing and delivery process. But with access to solar energy, women will be able to give birth in safer conditions.
More than 1 billion people around the world do not have access to electricity and half of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Solar power has the potential to improve energy equity and access to quality health care for vulnerable communities globally.