Noordkaap Bulletin

Electricity vital to health

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Close to one billion people globally are served by health-care facilities without reliable electricity.

This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as stated in a recent media statement.

According to the report by the WHO, the World Bank, the International Renewable Energy Agency, and Sustainable Energy for All, access to electricity is critical for quality health-care provision and to save lives.

“Electricity access in health-care facilities can make the difference between life and death,” said Dr Maria Neira, assistant director-general for Healthier Populations at the WHO.

“Investing in reliable, clean and sustainable energy for health-care facilities is not only crucial to pandemic preparedness, it is also much-needed to achieve universal health coverage, as well as increasing climate resilience and adaptation.”

Electricity is needed to power the most basic devices – from lights and communications equipment to refrigeration, or devices that measure vital signs like heartbeat and blood pressure – and is critical for routine and emergency procedures.

When health-care facilities have access to reliable sources of energy, critical medical equipment can be powered and sterilised, clinics can preserve lifesaving vaccines, and health workers can carry out essential surgeries or deliver babies as planned, the report stated.

And yet, in many countries more than one in ten health facilities lack any electricity access whatsoever, the report finds, while power is unreliable for a full half of facilities in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a World Bank needs analysis included in the report, almost two-thirds (64%) of health-care facilities in low and middle-income countries require some form of urgent intervention – for instance, either a new electricity connection or a backup power system – and some US$ 4,9 billion is urgently needed to bring them to a minimal standard of electrification.

Decentralised sustainable energy solutions, for example based on solar photovoltaics systems, are not only cost-effective and clean, but also rapidly deployable on site, without the need to wait for the arrival of the central grid, said the WHO.

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