TanzSolar’s Program: Solar Health Care Facilities for Tanzania
One of the primary goals of the TanzSolar Organization is the provision of power and energy efficient, high quality lighting to health care facilities throughout rural Tanzania. TanzSolar has chosen to install the We Care Solar - Solar Suitcases.
TanzSolar has launched this program in the Mara Region of northern Tanzania. This region has a total of 215 health care facilities, serving approximately 1.5 million people. The rural health care facilities serve the villages, and the vast majority of these have no access to the electric grid and only kerosene lanterns or flashlights for lighting. These clinics are the only option most village women have for birthing assistance.
Africa Solar Fund has supported the first 10 such installations by TanzSolar. TanzSolar has installed the Solar Suitcase systems and trained the health care staff in the use of this equipment. In addition they are providing ongoing service and maintenance for these systems for a minimum of two years. TanzSolar partnered with We Care Solar, which provided equipment and staff training for TanzSolar staff.
Given that there are over 60 health care facilities in the Mara region without any electricity, we hope to identify funding to provide clean, efficient, renewable solar power and lighting using the Solar Suitcase to all of these facilities over the next 1 - 2 years. Subsequently we envision expanding beyond the Mara region to the rest of rural Tanzania, where there are over 1,000 health care facilities without access to electricity.
Currently in Tanzania approximately 53% of births take place at home , and there is very little prenatal care available. It is difficult for the health facility staff to assist in nighttime births when they do not have adequate light to see by. In addition, they do not have instruments to monitor the unborn baby. The Solar Suitcase addresses these needs with bright lights and a prenatal Doppler. Using this equipment the delivery is much easier and the heartbeat of the unborn child can be monitored for signs of distress.
Typically there were 4 rooms, two of which had beds and were for treating patients, one office and one equipment storage room with a gas-powered refrigerator for vaccines. The roofs were metal and the buildings made of locally-made brick.
Lighting and power:
The centers generally had a kerosene lantern, and we were told that they would also use flashlights or cell phones for light to provide birthing assistance at night. Many of the larger Health Centers already have solar lighting, but very few of the village health clinics, called “dispensaries”, had any source of electricity, not even a solar panel.
Equipment and services:
All of the health clinics visited had a gas-powered refrigerator for vaccines, and many mothers with small children awaiting vaccination. They had beds and simple tools, but were not set up or trained to provide cesarean sections. They used a simple tube to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus, but the mother could not hear it.
In our meetings with the local and regional Medical Officers we found a great deal of support for the program. They are acutely aware of the statistics and have formulated a plan to address the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality. The report states: “Since most maternal deaths occur around the time of delivery, and neonatal deaths within the first week of life, improving the availability and utilization of appropriate care around this time is imperative for significant achievements in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality.”
The Regional Medical Officer of the Mara Region was very supportive of the program to bring lights to the clinics as he confirmed that the biggest obstacle they face is getting the women to come to the local clinic to give birth, and having light would go a long way to encouraging this behavioral change and saving lives.
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