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‘Why electrifying health centres with solar scheme is critical’

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The current dismal supply of electricity has been described as a key limiting factor for operational capacity and dissemination of health information through electronic media.

With rural communities being the worst hit, child immunisation and maternal health services are parts of health concerns that are reportedly affected by epileptic power supply across health centres.

Nigeria may, however, address critical challenges facing health centres at rural communities if the deployment of 5,000 units of mini-grids, being planned across health centres, in the country is fully implemented.

Access to sustainable, efficient, clean and reliable energy is a major focus of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If this goal is met, its multiplier effect, according to stakeholders, could avert death, especially maternal mortality.

Recall that Nigeria is currently the world’s number one contributor to deaths of children under the age of five, overtaking India last year, according to a report released by UNICEF, the UN children’s agency.

The country is also a leading contributor to maternal mortality rate. An attempt to improve power supply across health centres is therefore considered as a strategic step to reversing key health sector challenges.

The Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jeddy-Agba, had last month inaugurated a 12-kilowatt power (kwp) VSFH mini-grid with 58-kilowatt hour (kwh) battery bank at the Karu Health Centre, in Abuja. The initiative, supported by the Federal Government and championed by Vosus Energy Limited, a solar start-up firm in Nigeria could change the narrative for 5,000 health centres.

“Primary Health Centres (PHCs) are critical facilities in rural communities, as they are the first sign of government’s effort in providing sustainable health to its people.

“However, over the years, adequate power supply to them has been one of the challenges the facilities have faced across states. I was informed that at a time, this Karu primary health centre had to suspend night shift because of the epileptic power supply and the challenges that come with that.

“I believe this is now a thing of the past with the commissioning of this first VSFH 12 kilowatt power (KWP) solar mini-grid with 58 kilowatt hour (KWH) battery bank,” the minister noted.

Jeddy-Agba had noted that challenges would be addressed if the rural dwellers had light, adding that the government is giving more attention to rural electrification in the country because of the need to empower those who live in villages, and ensure that their small-scale businesses thrive.

Jeddy-Agba sees this move as a key factor in ensuring that people improve their standard of living and bear the cost of health services. He added that the agenda is holistic, as it prioritises under-served communities in Nigeria.

“This is to ensure we step up our game towards delivering on our mandate of providing improved and sustainable power supply to Nigerians, especially the un-served and underserved communities.”

In the face of an unreliable national grid, he said the administration would focus on a mini grid, as regulated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Although COVID-19 has worsened the situation for most primary health centres, the Chief Executive Officer of Volsus Energy, Tomiwa Bayo-Ojo, said it was high time the country focused on facilities that improve Nigeria’s health system while deepening the fight against the pandemic.

Studies have shown that in the renewable energy sub-sector of the power sector, there is little or no presence of independent investment that is heralded by the private sector to promote solar and other renewable energy penetration across Nigeria.

“We initiated the Volsus Solar For Health (VSFH) programme because we are deeply concerned about the challenge in the health sector, especially with the state of the nation’s health facilities, amidst the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to promote the attainment of Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards creating ripple effects on the living conditions of millions of Nigerians who seek access to health facilities,” Bayo-Ojo noted.

Deployment of state-of-art solar power facilities across Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) nationwide is seen by Bayo-Ojo key something the country must collaboratively address.

The office of the Minister of State for Power is currently providing technical support for the project, which is fully funded by the private sector.
At the project inauguration, Bayo-Ojo stated: “Prior to the installation of this solar mini grid facility, access to uninterrupted power has been the bane of the centre especially as it could not operate optimally. However, this success story of the Volsus Solar For Health (VSFH) mini grid is changing that story.

“The mini grid is now providing 24 hours electricity to the wards, the labour room, the laboratory, and the entire building. There is also the component for a refrigerator to improve the storage process of vaccines for routine immunization at the centre.”Other components of the project include fans and cooling systems to improve productivity and safety of the healthcare workers at this very delicate time.

The firm also launched the Sustainable Energy Africa magazine, a publication aimed at promoting wider reach of information on the evolution of the renewable energy sub-sector of the power sector in Nigeria and across Africa.

A medical practitioner, who heads the Karu Health Centre, Akila Udoji, stressed the need for electricity supply at health centres, and described the installed solar at the facility as an elixir to health care delivery.

“Now our staff will be much more comfortable, especially during night shift to deliver their best services and most especially, we will have time to preserve our vaccines to ensure sustained routine immunisation for children,” Udoji noted.


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