Sierra Leone: Solar Power Installations Are Saving Lives at Six Hospitals In Sierra Leone

15 May 2024
Sustainable Energy for All (Washington, DC)

Six main hospitals in Sierra Leone are now enjoying clean, reliable, and affordable energy following the installation of solar power systems with batteries as part of a project managed by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).

The installations were completed in late 2023 at the Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODH), Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH), Masanga Hospital, Kambia, Kabala and Bonthe Government Hospitals. A total of 0.6 megawatt-peak of power capacity was installed, which means that the six hospitals can provide critical medical attention any time of day or night.

“We are delighted to see hospitals like Kambia, Bonthe, and Masanga sporting solar panels, which provide them with reliable, clean, environmentally friendly power. This means that communities can now begin to expect greatly improved service delivery and round-the-clock critical medical care in these hospitals. Together, we are saving lives, and we couldn’t be prouder,” said SEforALL Sierra Leone Country Manager Ngozi Beckley-Lines.

One of the biggest and least talked about challenges facing healthcare systems in Africa is unreliable power, particularly in the healthcare sector, which leads to life-threatening complications and preventable deaths. Sierra Leone is one of the most affected countries, with a recent analysis suggesting that 38% of health facilities lack access to power. The problem is exacerbated by high rates of neonatal, infant, and under-five mortality, which are 34, 82, and 111 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively, according to UNICEF, while 1,360 mothers die in every 100,000 live births.

The Sierre Leone Healthcare Electrification project has shown that this is a solvable problem. The project is now expanding to provide solar installations at one additional hospital and 25 community health centres across the country. This is a game-changer for a country that has been making strides toward the provision of high-quality, accessible, affordable, and equitable healthcare.

The project is supported by UK funding and partners like Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health, Crown Agents, and EM-ONE Energy Solutions Canada. Commenting on the partnership, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health Dr. Austin Demby said:

“It is encouraging to see the energy and health industry players working together to support the government's initiatives and solutions to enhance service delivery and health outcomes for our citizens. With such strong collaborations and investments as well as the Government's robust policy and regulations, I have no doubt that our nation will make enormous strides toward attaining universal access and a gradual transition to clean and sustainable energy.”

According to SEforALL, the Sierra Leonean project is expected to provide a template that can be used to electrify thousands of other health facilities across the country and beyond. Such efforts are also an opportunity to grow local renewable energy workforces. The Sierra Leone Healthcare Electrification Project featured a ‘Women in STEM’ programme, where 12 young women trainees were involved in the project’s planning and delivery, helping them gain real-world experience to grow their careers in the renewable energy sector.

A 2023 joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO), SEforALL, and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicated that approximately 1 billion people in low and middle-income countries can only access healthcare facilities with unreliable electricity supply or no electricity at all. The backup option is the use of noisy, polluting, expensive diesel generators, which not only further compromises the health and safety of the patients, but is also harmful to the environment.

SEforALL is rallying all stakeholders to join forces and urgently invest in renewable and reliable energy solutions that can transform the health sector in low-income countries, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 7.

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