Keeping Vaccines Cool with Solar Power
In the Moyo region, located in northern Uganda’s border with Sudan, only one in two residents can be immunized. As a result, the region falls 40 percent short of national immunization and vaccination targets. The mortality rate among newborns and infants is correspondingly high, because meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis, tetanus and measles are rampant in the region. Currently, yellow fever and COVID-19 in particular are spreading rapidly and require immediate action. The reason for the poor vaccination rate is the lack of refrigeration facilities for vaccines, as only one of the 18 smaller health centers is connected to the national power grid and gas is irregularly available as a source of energy.
Photovoltaic-powered cooling systems are intended to provide a remedy. The Moyo district government plans to equip three health centers with these systems with the goal to increase access to vaccinations by 30 percent. In addition, existing solar systems will be repaired and more will be installed. Beyond cold storage for vaccines, the district government also hopes these systems will contribute to improve lighting, ensure cell phone charging and enable medical applications such as sterilization of equipment and laboratory procedures.
Through the project, the district government is cooperating with selected health centers, the respective District Health Officers and local community representatives. At the government level, contact persons from the Ministries of Energy and Health are involved. The private sector is also involved, such as manufacturers, energy service providers and training institutions.
The Moyo district government first identifies the three most suitable health centers through a transparent selection process. Once the appropriate technical equipment has been installed, health center staff are trained in its use and maintenance to ensure access to vaccinations in the longer term. Finally, the district government is engaging communities to raise awareness of the benefits of vaccinations and other health interventions offered.