Sun for Life

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Can you imagine doctors examining their patients without lighting? Can you imagine them operating without electricity, or making the needed tests and scans without energy sources for the necessary equipment? How do remote and rural areas deal with such challenges? Renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, can offer a solution for energy shortage in these areas. So, how could they offer better and affordable health services to the residents of these areas?

In the following paragraphs, we shall skim through the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) efforts in Zimbabwe in this regard, as well as the challenges faced. In remote African areas, the rough terrains and harsh climate often cause electricity cut-offs, which lead to deaths. Who would imagine a clinic, a medical center, or a maternity hospital without electricity? What a nightmare it is to need immediate medical care while the electricity is cut-out, hindering doctors from performing their duty. Doctors might even ask patients to bring candles along if they need medical care at night; sometimes they depend on mobile phone flashlights. Indeed, they are often helpless, as they sadly watch their cases deteriorate or perish.

The UNDP's program to use solar power for the development of the medical sector brings hope as it supports the governments of Nepal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, among others, where it sponsors solar systems in affected medical centers and clinics. Outcomes include the prevention of postnatal complications, which previously caused many deaths in mothers and newborns when special care, tests, or incubators were required.

The program also contributed to the preservation of vulnerable vaccines and medications, previously prone to spoil, as cooling and preservation processes during transportation have become much easier. The National Inventory for Medical Equipment in Zimbabwe is among the prominent outcomes of the UNDP's program. It was constructed over 7000 square meters, which equals the area of a football pitch. The program has sponsored the coverage of the building's ceiling with solar panels to provide the energy necessary for operating a sufficient cooling system to preserve medication and vaccines.

The program aims to save the operational costs of diesel-based electricity plants by resorting to solar energy. The saved money could be invested in enhancing medical services and serving more people in more areas. The cooperation between the government and the international fund has successfully equipped 405 medical centers with solar panels in 2017. The investment returns of using solar systems were estimated to be 100% within 2–5 years, which encourages more investments to substitute diesel-plants with solar ones.

The program has also contributed to solving other environmental problems; for example, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions and mitigating climate change in the concerned areas. The production of energy from renewable resources represents 12.1% of energy production around the world, which calls for exerting more efforts to increase this percentage.  Through partnerships between the UN, the governments, and the international funds, the UNDP has provided the people of these previously isolated areas with a better standard of living and medical services, as well as affordable clean energy. The cooperation comes within the framework of its commitment to achieving the sustainable development goals.

The UNDP has pledged to ensure that “no one will be left behind” through partnerships with governments to increase similar investments. These partnerships shall contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals in most areas that suffer from deteriorating services due to power cut-offs through establishing solar power plants by 2030.

References
savinglivesustainably.org
stories.undp.org 
undp-capacitydevelopment-health.org 

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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