By Hazvinei Mwanaka
Every month more than 4 000 residents benefit from three solar powered clinics in Zimbabwe’s southern city run by Masvingo City Council (MCC).
Constructed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and some partners, the clinics are Rujeko, which has the largest solar panels, Runyararo and Mucheke clinic, which offers maternity services.
According to analysts energy helps in the improvement of health care services.
In an interview, Annette Breda, the matron, said they are enjoying 24-hour services from the solar power (energy) regardless of power cuts.
“We are benefitting a lot from the solar powers. Roughly, each clinic serves more than 1 200 patients per month and we are assured that patients’ databases are kept (in order) because our computers are also connected to the solar power.
“Solar energy is clean, we rarely maintain it(solar panel). In actual fact, we are guaranteed that our medicines are safe since they are kept in fridges which are also connected to the solar powers and we are not even worried if we have power cuts,” she said.
She said at the maternity ward at Mucheke clinic, pregnant mothers who visit the clinic for deliveries, enjoy 24-hour lighting services.
Breda said antenatal bookings were around 150 per month, 400 revisits and about 75 deliveries a month.
“This October we had 80 deliveries. Actually it’s now easy for us to communicate. It is reducing costs for us as MCC is also contributing directly to the free care,” added Breda.
MCC deputy chief health officer, Ngonidzashe Mapamula, said they are grateful to the Ministry of Health and its partners for their assistance.
“This will go a long way in affording better health services to our residents. It has reduced costs paid for electricity by the clinics … in actual fact we are making a saving,” he said.
Acting sister-in-charge at Rujeko clinic, Varaidzo Zvinoitavamwe, said they started using solar power in August this year.
“Our solar power has been connected to almost everything except the geyser, kitchen and laundry, but plans are underway to connect everything.
“We last paid for electricity in July before we had solar (power). Whenever we had power cuts, we used to take our medicines to Mucheke clinic, but now this is a thing of the past. We keep our vaccines and drugs here and we are assured that they will remain potent,” said Zvinoitavamwe.
She said they preserve their specimens through refrigerated ice bags adding that they were now also able to wash and iron their sheets anytime.
“This has been a good initiative for us. We are striving to maintain our panels and also asking the community to help us by not vandalising them as this is their property,” she added.
The premises are also guarded by the municipal police.
One pregnant woman who is to deliver at Mazorodze clinic, said she prefers the clinic because the place is smart and they are guaranteed of lighting every day.
“I have three kids and all of them were delivered here. I have never brought candles or even a torch as I know we have solar power … the sheets we use are well ironed and clean,” she said.
ZERO regional environment organization programmes officer, Wellington Madumira, outlined the advantages of using solar energy. He said there is huge potential for use of solar PV and solar water heaters that have not yet been exploited.
“Solar energy is renewable and unlimited, it is also non-polluting and the environmental costs imposed through manufacture are negligible when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources.
“Apart from being adaptable, economical solar energy is easy to maintain. Solar panels are low maintenance, because there are no moving parts there’s nothing that wears out that will need replacing in the future,” said Madumira
According to Madumira lack of adequate lighting and power has caused poor maternity delivery in remote rural clinics resulting in high mortalities especially of premature children and for complicated pregnancies.
He, however, urged the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) and others, to develop harmonised quality standards on renewable energy technologies and enforcement of these quality standards.
According to the World Bank, in Zimbabwe, solar PV has a technical potential of over 300 MW.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), says roughly 1 billion people in developing countries do not have access to adequate healthcare services due to energy poverty.
According to IRENA, harnessing potential of renewable energy access for rural healthcare facilities requires combined action from the health and energy sectors.