GO tasks FG on renewable energy to power health facilities in rural areas

eHealth Africa, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO), has urged the federal government to increase investment in renewable energy to bridge the power supply gap in healthcare infrastructure in rural areas.

The group’s Executive Director, Atef Fawaz, who made the call in an interview in Abuja on Tuesday, said the call becomes imperative as improved power supply through renewable energy can reduce avoidable mortality rates in healthcare facilities.

He said the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has found that up to a billion people worldwide depend on healthcare facilities that lack sufficient power supply, adding that another study on the condition of healthcare facilities in developing countries revealed that over 60 percent of such facilities lack reliable power supply.

He said “It is quite disturbing that healthcare facilities that are mostly already overstretched due to inadequate personnel and equipment are still battling with insufficient power supply when their activities largely depend on it.

“It is no more news that Nigeria is battling with power supply, with generation hovering within 4,500 – 5,000 megawatts nationwide and distribution even much lower. This no doubt makes it difficult or impossible for power supply to reach rural areas and directly impact healthcare facilities.”

Fawaz said inadequate power supply and little or no investment in alternative sources had to a large extent limited the quality of medical equipment that could be used in healthcare facilities.

He explained that “this is because most of the medical apparatus depend on power supply to function effectively.”

Fawaz said there were stories of patients who had reportedly lost their lives due to poor medical attention caused by epileptic power supply, especially in primary healthcare services.

The group’s executive director said the situation had increased maternal and child mortality rates in primary healthcare, especially in rural areas as health facilities continue to experience erratic power supply without alternative sources of power.

He said: “For instance, we have the opportunity to deliver vaccines to primary healthcare facilities in Sokoto State but many of them lack cold chain equipment to maintain them at the right temperature.

“This is partly due to insufficient power supply in the facilities and sadly this impacts the number of children that can be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases in the state. And unfortunately, this is the case in many states across the federation.”

Fawaz said big hospitals currently depend on generating sets to perform surgical operations and other medical procedures.

He added that “unfortunately, with an upward review in the cost of petroleum products like the Premium Motor Spirit and diesel, it means the cost of running healthcare centres will become more expensive.”

He said sadly, the burden would be on the poor masses, already struggling to afford basic things of life, saying that this was why people self-medicate through their ailment until it becomes severe and sometimes leads to death.