Everyone should be given a chance to live and as Nelson Mandela clearly submitted that “It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.” According to IEA, today 770 million people live without access to electricity, mostly in Africa and Asia. These communities are located off-grid mostly having a peculiar concentration of people in a particular geographical area farther from the urban cities and central electricity grid network. For a bit of context, a community identified to be off-grid is not most of the time the decision of that local community not to be connected to the National Grid but rather caused by a great extent of circumstances. Key human infrastructures and support systems are enabled by electricity and most importantly the health care sector.
In 2018, Nigeria's child mortality rate was 120 deaths per 1,000 live births. One may not understand how critical electricity is as an enabler to reduce drastically the painful and sorrowful high rate of Child mortality until you have an on the ground assessment discussion with health practitioners.
Earlier today in the quest to understand the pain experienced in health centres located off-grid with no access to electricity, I had a conversation with a Matron with findings that literally drained out tears from my eyes but fuelled my inner determination to design Solar Mini-grids compatible to the needs of this health centres.
Access to electricity in health care centres/maternity wards should be prioritized if our commitment as humans and governmental/non-governmental organizations to reduce the high prevalence of mortality is genuine. One may be tempted to think the only use of electricity in health centres/maternal wards is just for illumination and storage of vaccines purposes, reading further will help you know it is actually way beyond that. Worthy to point out is that in replacement for no access to electricity in these health centres mostly located off-grid, what is predominantly used as alternatives are local lanterns and lamps which is no way effective when compared to a well-powered solar mini-grid illuminated bulb.
As pointed out in the discussion by Matron, the primary need for good illumination is to help health workers notice bleeding quickly after childbirth. This seemingly simple setting has a huge impact on the aversion of several mother-child death that may occur as a result of excessive bleeding. Also, good illumination is critical in the routine observation of the child and mother after the delivery process has been successful. This illumination could prove to be the saviour when a need for control of emergencies is required due to an observed abnormality.
The presence of electricity is very important in Intravenous administration which is required when a patient experiences dehydration and requires pain medication and blood transfusion among many other reasons. Just highlighted are common conditions witnessed in a health care facility and most especially maternity wards.
Suffice to also note that Laboratory investigation machine such as microscope and centrifuge requires electricity for their operation. Another importance of access to electricity in health care centres is the use of an IUD (Intrauterine device) for family planning and constant sterilization of equipment to forestall the spread of contagious diseases and viruses. So one just imagine how a health centre has managed its operations without access to such critical infrastructure in the donkey years. Invariably a sign up for more avoidable deaths in off-grid communities maternal ward.
The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 and the “Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016–2030)” recognize that achieving health goals requires an enabling environment that integrates health with other sectors such as basic infrastructure, important among which is electricity. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) stresses that electricity is a “critical enabler” of universal access to health care and that without electricity, “many life-saving interventions simply cannot be undertaken”.
To this end, I believe individuals, governments and non-governmental organizations should invest in the provision of electricity in health care centres, especially those located off-grid. Mini-grids (Solar Photovoltaic technology) electricity generation which can function independent of the national grid is the game-changer for an affordable, reliable and flexible source of electricity for these health centres. As an individual, I am determined to use the knowledge and experience acquired on solar mini-grid design and deployment to help develop energy-efficient electrification systems for health care facilities. I believe the moment we start saving lives today and restore back the joy expected from health centres (maternal wards) located off-grid in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa the brighter our individual lives will be.
Let's act now and help one remain joyful!
Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.
Dennis Ebenezer is a graduate of Chemical Engineering and holds an MBA from Quantic School of Business and Technology, United States. He is certified by the Nigerian Energy Support Programme and experienced in the use of Design tools such as PVSyst, Helioscope, and Homer.