S4H Project: Solar energy for better health care
Frequently interrupted electricity supply in Uganda’s rural regions makes medical care difficult and poses a deadly challenge for patients. In Sembabule District, with a population of more than 200,000, the inadequate power supply affects six health centers of different sizes. Each of these centers serves an average of up to 100 people per day with approximately 45 expectant mothers as regular patients who depend on their services. However, the mortality rate for births and newborns remains high. After dark, the centers rely on kerosene lights, making it especially difficult to attend to nighttime emergencies. Coal is still the most common resource used to boil water urgently needed to sterilize instruments. The availability of medications is also low, and what resources are available spoil as a result of the lack of continuous refrigeration. Operations often have to be canceled or postponed, resulting in unnecessary deaths
First and foremost, health centers need a stable energy supply that also improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gases. The S4H project being implemented by the non-governmental organization (NGO), Action for Rural Women Empowerment (ARUWE) aims to equip three health centers with photovoltaic (PV) systems, two of which are not connected to the national grid. The sun-generated energy will support light, as well as the sterilization of equipment. Solar-powered cooling systems should also enable the health centers to store their medicines appropriately and thus significantly expand their vaccination capacities. The project also aims to improve general hygiene, especially in the district halls by providing access to clean water. Furthermore, a secure energy supply improves communication between the health centers and the health workers in the local villages.
ARUWE is a non-governmental organization that works closely with the management committees of the selected health centers, the respective District Health Officers and local community representatives. ARUWE has many years of experience in the development sector. For S4H, ARUWE will be coordinating all service providers involved in the delivery and operation of the PV systems.
In cooperation with the “District Health Officers”, ARUWE identified three suitable health centers in Busheka, Kasaalu, and Kyaabi. The project now brings together all key stakeholders, including government officials at national and local levels, health managers, PV technicians, and medical professionals. After the technical installation of the solar energy generation, storage and cooling systems, the project focuses on training technical staff in the health centers. In several training modules, staff members will be trained in the operation and maintenance of the PV systems to ensure their functionality beyond the project period.