Solar for health
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Health facilities need power. Clinics, maternity wards, operating rooms, medical warehouses, and laboratories rely on electricity to power the lights, refrigerate vaccines, and operate life-saving medical devices. An inability to carry out these essential services puts lives at risk.
All too often, particularly in remote areas, health facilities face significant power shortages. A WHO review i revealed that one in four health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa had no access to electricity, while only 28% of health facilities and 34% of hospitals had what could be called “reliable” access to electricity (without prolonged interruptions in the past week).
UNDP’s Solar for Health initiative supports governments to increase access to quality health services through the installation of solar energy photovoltaic systems (PV), ensuring constant and cost-effective access to electricity, while also mitigating the impact of climate change and advancing multiple Sustainable Development Goals.
Quality health services
Climate-resilient health systems
Reduced carbon emissions
Contribution to sustainable development goals (SDGs)
Solar for Health can make a significant contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its commitment to “leave no one behind” by reaching remote and under-served communities. Specifically, it can help countries in their efforts to achieve SDGs 3, 7, 13 and 17: (good health and well-being; affordable and clean energy; climate action: and partnerships).
Broader development benefits include the creation of green jobs and the development of local manufacturing and markets for solar power. By training women as solar technicians to install and maintain solar panels, the initiative can also help countries advance SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
UNDP has significant experience and expertise in building resilient and sustainable systems for health, including the delivery of large, complex health programmes with the Global Fund and other partners. * i In addition, UNDP carries out extensive work to promote use of sustainable energy.
Quality assurance and standardized solutions
UNDP’s expertise in providing project quality assurance means we have experienced teams that deliver day-to-day assistance, while also coordinating across countries and acting as a link with donors. In the past two years, UNDP has piloted and demonstrated several solar PV projects in the health sectors of Libya, Namibia, South Sudan, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In 2018, UNDP established its first Solar for Health specific long-term agreement and has identified 19 pre-qualified suppliers for Solar for health equipment. For standard primary health care facilities (health posts and health centres), UNDP procures plug and play solar PV units of 5 to 15 kWh, which ensure smooth, fast implementation and cost-effective installation.
For hospitals and other large health structures (hospitals and clinics) we deliver tailor-made solar PV installations which ensure uninterrupted power supply for the critical departments of the hospitals such as: maternity; A&E; surgery; pharmacy; and laboratory.
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The energy needs of the health sector are often exponential. Thus, Solar for Health is designed to ensure flexibility, meaning that it can be initiated with relatively small contributions and scaled up as funding becomes available and additional needs are identified.
Examples of solar for health projects
Supporting HIV clinics in Zimbabwe
Before the Solar for Health project, many health facilities in Zimbabwe had access to electricity only four hours a day. With solar installations in place, they now have power 24/7 and patients are receiving the care they need, when they need it. As a consequence, Solar for Health has enhanced access to quality health services, notably for children under five (e.g. vaccination) and pregnant mothers who attend the health facilities for delivery. Additionally, the solar energy generated is used to maintain the cold chain and ensure the quality of medicines and laboratory reagents remains constant.
Solar panels will also facilitate water pumping and water purification—a pivotal achievement in a country in which water-borne diseases are the major killers of children.
Effective warehousing in Zambia
MSL has faced regular power interruptions in the past, affecting the effective running of warehouses, including the refrigeration of medicines and vaccines.
With funding received from the Norwegian Emergency Preparedness System (NOREPS) and Global Fund, UNDP has supported MSL to install a solar powered energy system, combined with an energy efficient temperature control system covering 3000 m2 storage space. With the solar panels in place, MSL can ensure the effective running of its operations, even when there is no power from the national hydro-powered grid.
This is vital to providing quality health services to the Zambian population, as interruptions in power supply had previously led to delays in the processing of requests from health facilities across the country. Furthermore, the solar power system has also ensured cold chain pharmaceutical items remain stored at the required temperatures.
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis and can drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.
For more information on solar for Health please contact