-Hospitals could not store the vaccines due to power cuts, resulting in pregnant mothers having to prolong immunisation, a pregnant mother in Umzingwane revealed.
Harare, Zimbabwe – Everjoice Banda (24) a mother of one from Umzingwane in Matabeleland South, is one of more than six million beneficiaries of the Global Fund-funded Solar for Health (S4H) program, in Zimbabwe.
The program has been implemented by the Ministry of Health and Child Care with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2016.
Everjoice is expecting her second child and says the 40-kw solar unit at Esigodini Hospital has improved maternal health and antenatal care services at the back of a cold chain system, which is solar powered.
“I faced many challenges during my first pregnancy; power cuts saw me coming back to the hospital several times just for simple immunisations for pregnant mothers.
Nurses would tell us to wait for vaccines coming from Bulawayo as the hospital could not store the drugs due to power cuts,” she said.
Now Everjoice has made fewer visits to the hospital, giving her more time to do other income-generating activities.
She is not the only woman who has benefited, as 40-year-old Marjorie Bejera in Chivi, Masvingo, said the same about the S4H.
Tsitsi Mavaza, in Chivi, added that the S4H program has also meant the mortuary at the centre remains cold.
“From the time the solar field was installed at the hospital, we have not been rushed into burying our relatives like in the past,” she said.
The adoption of solar power by healthcare facilities in Zimbabwe is an example of developmental leapfrogging, as the country foregoes traditional and unsustainable practices for environmentally sustainable ones.
The clean, renewable energy supply has improved healthcare services, provided economic and financial benefits, and reduced harmful emissions.
The S4H Initiative has had fundamentally positive social impacts on participating communities.
It ensures reliable energy supply to critical health facilities (including pharmacies, warehouses, cold rooms, and laboratories), with improved lighting and temperature control of vaccines.
The improved energy supply has also provided extended hours of operation, facilitated the retention and recruitment of healthcare workers in remote settings, and improved healthcare data management.
1045 clinics and hospitals across the country now enjoy uninterrupted power supply, allowing, for example, healthcare workers to reduce complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth.
Deliveries no longer take place by candlelight, and life-saving procedures are not denied due to power shortages.
During a Ministry of Health media tour of the Global Fund and UNDP’s Solar for Health projects in Masvingo, Bulawayo, and Matabeleland South, health experts expressed gratitude.
“On average, we do 10 caesareans per week, five during the day and five at night, and before this project, we would have problems during the night,” Dr. Onward Tendaupenyu, District Medical Officer for Chivi Hospital, said.
“The Electronic Health Records (EHR) system needs power and 24-hour internet connectivity, but now even if there is no electricity, we are able to share real-time information and reports to the Head Office; in the past, we used to have challenges,” Dr. Tendaupenyu said.
Linda Chamboko, NatPharm Masvingo Branch Manager, also revealed the Global Funded Solar Project has seen her establishment get 201 kw of output, enough to power the new warehouse.
“In maternal health, we are looking at the bookings, which are done electronically, so we run a results-based financing urban voucher system in Bulawayo.
This enables women to receive maternal health care up to delivery.”
With continuous connectivity at the clinic, the information is then transmitted to the fund administrator, reducing the turnaround time for the clinic to redeem its vouchers,” Dr. Edwin Sibanda, Bulawayo City Health Director, said.
-Solar for health
Zimbabwe has installed solar photovoltaic systems in 1045 of its 1600 health facilities, benefiting more than 6 million individuals across the country.
Before then, more than two-thirds of the health clinics in Zimbabwe had access to electricity only for approximately four hours a day.
Health clinics, maternity wards, surgery blocks, medical warehouses, and laboratories all rely on electricity to refrigerate medicines, power lights, operate life-saving medical devices, and manage relevant data and information.
The lack of reliable energy sources jeopardised the financial sustainability of the health care facilities due to increased energy costs arising from the use of diesel or gasoline generators when the national grid was disconnected.
These challenges have resulted in a deficient healthcare system that does not ensure accessible and affordable services for all.