MACS is seeking contributions towards the remaining funds to support the provision of reliable solar electric power to 3 Health Centres attached to St Anne’s Hospital, Nkhotakota. Generous donors and a commitment from MACS have provided £2000, and we are now seeking an additional £18,000 to complete the project.
Malawi is a country of 17m people, most of whom do not live in towns or cities. With only 26 district hospitals in the entire country, most healthcare services provided by some 600 health centres. The healthcentres, though generally linked to a regional or community hospital, are typically pretty isolated. So these healthcentres are the only contact most of the population ever have with the healthcare system, and play a critical role in improving the lives of millions of Malawian mothers and children.
The Urgent Need
The Healthcentres typically provide outpatient, maternity and limited inpatient services. Many of these services, especially acute maternity and the inpatient treatment, are 24-hour, and so good and reliable lighting is a real benefit – when we visited Kapiri healthcentre, one of the nurses told us how she frequently had to deliver babies at night by Tilley lamp! Also, much of the outpatient work relies on drugs and vaccines which need refrigeration . . . Parafin fridges are unreliable, and can mean a regular 20km bike ride to get more fuel, so reliable electric power can really help here. And last but not least – mobile phones are surprisingly widespread and provide an essential lifeline of communication . . . If they are charged! And this, too, is a challenge for most rural Africans
So a reliable source of electric power can make a real difference for the doctors, nurses and their patients in these healthcentres. However, electricity provision, like many services, is minimal in these rural populations, where only c. 2% of people are connected. Fortunately for us, the Malawi government currently has a drive to electrify rural healthcare facilities, so there is funding to install proper lighting etc. However, connection can take years (!), and the mains electricity supply is not only expensive, but also unreliable, with frequent power cuts, lasting many hours. So a reliable solar back-up system, providing essential power during the blackouts, and reducing costs at other times, is a real benefit for these healthcentres.
We hope to install robust solar back-up power in the 3 healthcentres, which lie between 20km and 35km from the town of Nkhotakhota. These systems include battery packs, which can be charged either form the solar panels or the mains, giving the healthcentres c. 9 hours of power, which should cover most of the blackouts, and importantly, last the night out. . . No more babies born in the dark! They will also power a fridge, and any other small analytical machines (eg blood testing machines), as well as charging for phones or PCs.
These 3 projects are ready specified and costed, so are just awaiting the funding to become a reality.
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