(Em)powering Rural Health Centers in Mozambique to Help Contain the Spread of COVID-19

GBE in Mozambique, together with Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da Comunidade (FDC, Foundation for Community Development), equipped 42 rural health centers with off-grid solar power systems. In addition to the technical installation, training materials as well as trainings of health personnel across all provinces are provided to strengthen the health centers’ capacities in dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, access to qualitative health care was scarce in rural Mozambique. Half of the country’s 30 million inhabitants must travel more than 20 kilometers to reach the nearest health center. But many of those centers are not connected to the electricity grid. Operations and births are often attended with the help of candles, battery-powered lanterns, or cell phone lanterns. Of course, health services need more resources than light to save lives. Electricity is also critical to support operation rooms, charging medical equipment and phones as well as disinfection procedures. It is one of the most fundamental steps toward functioning and reliable health care.

Around 2.3 million people, or 12.4 % of the population, in Mozambique live with compromised immune systems due to HIV. In times of COVID-19, their situation has become even more insecure, as the virus poses additional risks for those living with co-morbidities and in difficult circumstances. The need to strengthen care delivery capacity at rural health centers has thus rarely been more pressing.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, GBE and FDC assisted the Ministry of Health in providing access to electricity to 42 remote rural health centers. The non-governmental organization FDC is a long-term health sector partner to the government of Mozambique and has a presence in health centers across the country. It coordinates the installation of the solar kits. To ensure their long-term use, FDC prepared a manual in Portuguese and offers specific trainings to the health center staff.

All 42 health centers selected for this project are not connected to the national electrical grid and have no alternative source of electricity. The installed solar photovoltaic systems by Powerblox now provide four lighting points and enough electricity to power communication equipment and basic appliances needed in each health center, like phones, radios and heart rate monitors. A connected WATA electrolyzer allows for the production of antiviral chlorine-based disinfectant – cost-effectively and on-site. This will strengthen health centers in their ability to actively contain the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.