Picture above: Magubike Health Centre in Morogoro Region is one of the 42 health facilities installed with solar power systems in four regions by TUNAJALI programme, which has greatly reduced running costs for services such as use of kerosene and diesel to run small machines including a cold chain and microscopes.
Power supply in Tanzania continues to be a huge challenge with most of the rural population having no access to reliable power supply lines. Lack of power has notable negative impact on the quality of health care services provided because most installed lab equipment cannot function without power and staff motivation is low due to perpetual darkness and inability to use modern household items like TV and radios. This was the observation made in over 40 rural health facilities that had no access to power and hence had significant limitations in providing services especially at night. Regularly family members had to provide their own kerosene so that health care workers could attend to their relatives when they went in labor or required emergency operation during the night.
The TUNAJALI response to this challenge was to provide reliable and affordable power supply to these facilities so that high quality health care services could be provided to the sick at all times in the four regions that we support. The program initiated a Tshs 2.7 billion solar power project to install solar panels in all the identified facilities between January - April 2011. Following the installations, all lab equipment that were non-functioning are in full use thus the sick do not have to go far for diagnosis services. The project has been one of TUNAJALI’s landmarks as the facilities have immensely reduce their expenditure costs and have also been able to cater to a greater number of patients than they used too initially. Kilimatinde Hospital is one of the facilities in the Singida Region that has had solar power installed. Before installation, the center used to spend up to 120 liters of diesel a month to run the hospital generator at a cost of about Tsh.240, 000 per month. The gas oil costs have now significantly gone down to Tsh. 30,000 a month. The hospital can now use the TUNAJALI supplied computer, printer and other communication equipments such as telephone and fax.
The USAID funded TUNAJALI program has continued to improve the quality of care and treatment offered to People Living with HIV/AIDs in its regions of implementation namely Morogoro, Dodoma, Iringa and Singida. Over the 4 years of implementation the program has been able to supply all its supported facilities with the needed resources such as laboratory equipment, computers and printers’ for efficient provision of quality services to patients.
A laboratory technician at Lupiro Health Centre in Ulanga district using a solar-powered lamp to increase light for his microscopic work.
Patient’s record keeping is now more efficient enabling quick correct patient follow-up of missed appointments which has also seen a decrease in the number of loss to follow-up. This too has helped with the reporting of patient data and analysis for quality reports for the stakeholder’s. When asked about the new changes Dr. Jacob (Kilimatinde Staff) stated, “Previously we had to drive all the way to Manyoni District Hospital for typing and printing, the solar energy has saved us both the time and money and we are now more efficient in our records keeping”.
A total of 42 facilities have been installed with solar powers and have now got constant power in the wards, labor rooms and theaters which has enabled medical teams to have more flexibility in carrying out medical operations with no constraints even during the night time in case of emergencies.
A medical officer in one of the solar power facilities in Dodoma Region was quoted saying, “Faced with a labor case at night, we sometimes had to use the light from our cell phones which was not adequate for such procedures, but since the 27th March 2011 there is solar electricity throughout, Thank you TUNAJALI”.
The project has turn to be a great motivating factor for the rural based health workers contributing to staff retention as health care workers are no longer thinking of leaving their duty stations. They can now enjoy the same life as of those people in town. They now have reliable power and can use their household tools like TV sets and refrigerators. At Nyololo dispensary, Stewart Lutego, the Administrator believes that the young and newly recruited staff will stay much longer at their allocated duty stations because of changes of lifestyle after installation of solar power. They can communicate with their friends and relatives as they can recharge their mobile phone batteries, sit and watch all programs on television and write or study on-line if they have internet facilities
Dr Mlewa from the Malangali district in Iringa stated “Our staffs now give us other reasons for a transfer, in the past, they did not waste time to think why they should not leave this center but now they enjoy the benefits of electricity in their homes, can do more house chores during the night. The security has also improved a lot with installation of security lights in the houses that have solar panels, Thanks to the solar power from TUNAJALI”.