KAMPALA – Environmental Alert together with Sudwind, an Austrian based NGO have launched a project named ‘Empower healthcare in Uganda.’
The project that is basically targeting the Albertine region will reach out to health centres that are off-grid and in hard to reach areas occupying the refugee settlement in Kibaale and Kikuube.
These health centres will be given solar equipment such that they are able to serve both the refugees and the hosting community better.
In an engagement that was held at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on March 11, Environmental Alert invited stakeholders from the government like the ministry of health, energy and representatives from the two districts where the project is going to take course.
Mr Lawrence Ssentongo, the Executive Director of Environmental Alert said at the moment, the four health centres they are starting with are a pilot but hope with additional funding from the different stakeholders to scale it up to other places away from the Albertine region.
Mr Ssentongo said they undertook an assessment with their consultant, Baseline Africa that they contracted to carry out a professional assessment on the power needs of these health centres and found out that maternity wards of these health centres were not powered completely.
“We felt that there is a need for us to step in and bridge the gap. We also found out that the vaccines that could have been kept in these health centres cannot be kept there due to the lack of power to refrigerate,” he said.
Ssentongo added that this pilot project is taking 18months but they feel with additional funding that they are likely to get, they can scale it further to maybe another three or four years.
“The training we are going to conduct with the different stakeholders will focus on climate adaptation changes and training. We want to ensure that if this is taken up, the Albertine region will be a centre of promotion of use projects that are not affecting natural resources. We also want to increase the number of patients in those health centres by at least 75% and ensure that vulnerable groups of women and children access better services.”
In his remarks, Dr Brian Isabirye, the Commissioner Renewable energy at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development said the project is going to enhance the solarisation of health centres amongst refugees and refugee-hosting communities in the Albertine region.
He said the project is very innovative because it is bringing to reality that the government of Uganda has committed to make sure that they have access to clean, modern and affordable energy services and solar being one of such sources of energy.
“The project we are witnessing today is piloting the use of solar in powering health centres both for the refugees and refugee-hosting communities. We think this is a breakthrough for this region because then it will be possible for mothers to deliver within the facilities even for emergencies that have not been possible in the past,” he said.
In terms of preservation of drugs, Dr Isabirye said it is now going to be possible for these health centres to be able to store these drugs and preserve them over a longer period and be able to serve a bigger community.
He explained that it is not easy for the government to attract skilled staff in the areas that are off the power grid, but now with solar, it is going to be possible for them to have health officers posted in these hard to reach areas.
“We are looking at this project as a demonstration of us transitioning to cleaner sources of energy which will go a long way in supporting our efforts in moving away from destruction of the environment, through sourcing for energy in unsustainable means such as cutting down biomass, so this project is quite timely because it addresses most of our aspirations under the SDG 7.”
Ms Pauline Nambi, the acting district natural resources officer, Kikuube district revealed how excited she is about the project saying it is going to do great work for them in streamlining the delivery of women at night.
She shared that some of their health centres are at the landing sites since we have a bigger population there and there is no access to power and with the project, service delivery will be enhanced and provision of services by health workers will also improve.
Ms Nambi cautioned on maintenance of the infrastructure saying it would go a long way in minimising costs to make even other areas benefit from the project.
“I would advocate for concentrating on maintaining the old systems which have been installed such that instead of wasting a lot of money in the new ones, the old ones should also be repaired such that they are back and running and the money can be spent on other health centres which have not been catered for.”