Power for Health in Tanzania: Solar Powered Dispensaries Touching Lives

March 30, 2016

Hivos East Africa recently visited the Michepo Village Dispensary in Shinyanga District, Tanzania. The journey to the dispensary was a tedious one marred with harsh weather, long distances and rugged roads.

‘’Upon arrival we noticed throngs of women and children speaking in hushed tones with some sitting and standing outside. It was over 30oC and some of the mothers were fanning themselves and their babies to keep cool,’’ explained Hivos Programme Development Manager for Renewable Energy, Zeph Kivungi.

The team’s visit was just in time for the dispensary’s immunization day, when the medical personnel are busy giving life-saving vaccines to both expectant mothers and infants. The clinic serves over 1,200 people, with an average of seven maternal deliveries monthly. Given the vast population in this rural area, the clinic cannot afford to rely extensively on grid energy to provide healthcare services.

Tanzania’s energy sector faces a number of significant challenges to providing equal energy access to its growing population. According to a recent report by the African Development Bank, electricity connection is estimated at 24 per cent nationally and only 11 per cent in rural areas. This has created a significant potential for off-grid electricity schemes to provide additional energy access to thousands.

Many health facilities in Tanzania’s rural areas are adopting the use of clean-onsite energy to ensure reliable energy supply. One project, Up scaling Access to Modern Energy Services, has sought to offer clean modern energy solutions using mini-grids. This partnership between Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organisation (TaTEDO), Hivos and the European Union has installed 16 mini-grids in 16 villages. As one of the core beneficiaries of the project, the Michepo Village Dispensary has an installed solar power system complete with a freezer to store vaccines.

‘’Before the installation of the solar powered freezer, vaccines would be delivered on ice blocks and administered on specific days in small quantities. This new solar power system, which fits the WHO requirements, lets us provide these crucial services at any time,’’ the clinical officer in charge explains. He continues, ‘’We used to conduct maternal deliveries at night using torchlight. Now it’s much easier since we have a reliable supply of energy.’’

A clinical officer in Kahe village, Moshi District, also reported a similar experience, “Just after this power system was installed, we had a cholera case. We quarantined the patient who could only be rehydrated using drip. If we never had lighting, we would either send the patient back home and risk infection of others in the village or treat her from here. ‘’

Michepo is one of the 50 dispensaries across the Kilimanjaro, Lake and Shinyanga regions that have been equipped with such systems thanks to the TaTEDO, Hivos and EU partnership.

Hivos and its partners demonstrate that green energy is not a pipe dream or an alternative, but simply the best choice. We do that by making simple, smart and clean technologies accessible to poor people in remote areas.