How Access to Energy Helps Health

The lack of access to modern, renewable forms of energy has both direct and indirect harmful effects on health and medical care facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 30 percent of clinics and hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, serving approximately 255 million people, are without electricity.

The lack of electricity causes many doctors to struggle to provide clinical services after sunset. Access to energy services lengthens the workday for those in the medical profession and allows them to see a greater number of patients in a day. When facilities without electric lighting do see patients after dark, they have to depend on paraffin lamps, candles or torches that provide low-quality light, give off harmful fumes and, in some cases, present a fire hazard. These types of lights are also often more expensive per unit of energy than electric lighting.

No access to electricity can also lead to complications with life-saving operations, examinations and correct health procedures. Conducting medical examinations, not to mention invasive surgeries or childbirth, with poor lighting unsurprisingly poses additional risk to the patient. In fact, some studies have found that maternal and child mortality can be reduced up to 70 percent at night with the provision of even minimal lighting and medical devices.

Vaccines, blood work and medications cannot be stored properly when electricity is not present. Vaccines that protect against preventable diseases can lose their effectiveness when they aren’t refrigerated properly. Even when health clinics do have access to power, it is often intermittent, with outages lasting an average of 4.5 hours at a time in Kenya. Sixty percent of health center refrigerators are thought to have inconsistent power supplies.

Without electricity, the danger that is presented to patients is extremely high. By increasing Africa’s access to energy, many lives could be saved.

– Matthew Jackoski 

Source: ONE, Rhoban