Healthcare remains an issue that requires constant attention around the globe. Many work to stop the spread of disease, provide vaccinations and treatments, monitor women’s health and accomplish many more vital tasks. One organization, however, uses a different approach to improving healthcare — Power Up Gambia works to provide solar power to improve healthcare facilities within the Gambia.
Healthcare in the Dark
The Gambia is one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa. Healthcare is delivered by only five hospitals, and most citizens receive their healthcare from rural health clinics throughout the country. Power Up Gambia was founded when Kathryn Hall, a medical student, visited the Gambia in 2002.
Power Up Gambia board member, Dee Bertino, spoke to The Borgen Project, and described Hall’s reaction to this trip as being “overcome at how the hospitals and medical clinics struggled to meet their patient’s most basic needs without reliable electricity.”
She went on to describe some of what she witnessed during this trip including, “Caesareans and other surgeries were often performed by candlelight, premature infants died without access to an incubator, life-saving vaccines were destroyed without adequate refrigeration.” When Hall returned to the United States, she began fundraising to provide electricity to these Gambian healthcare facilities.
Power Up Gambia took on the problem of healthcare in the Gambia and decided on the clean and efficient solution of solar power. The organization has been able to provide electricity to hospitals and serve a total of over 1.6 million patients. These actions not only provide light but also life-saving water, heat and refrigeration for medication.
So far, Power Up Gambia has brought electricity to 23 hospitals and clinics. The Gambia has over 60 health clinics in rural communities that bring healthcare to farmers, but most still do not have access to electricity. They have partnered with We Care Solar and, as of 2017, were able to bring portable solar power kits to every one of these locations. This assistance has been crucial during nighttime health emergencies. and the organization also keeps spare parts for these kits on hand and trains Gambian technicians to be able to complete any potential repairs.
These technicians are trained at the Gambia Technical Training Institute where Power Up Gambia has implemented a curriculum on solar energy and solar technology to ensure the sustainability of health centers.
Future for Gambian Healthcare
Power Up Gambia has been able to do significant work in The Gambia, but its work is far from finished. The organization is currently working to upgrade its systems to meet increasing needs as well as installing a new “green” battery that will provide more power with less of an environmental impact. Bertino says, “At Power Up Gambia, we believe that healthcare should not just be limited to the wealthy.” With continued support, Power Up Gambia will continue to improve the Gambian healthcare system and provide a healthier future for all citizens.
– Megan Burtis