The Power of The Sun: Solar Energy Helps Healthcare Facilities Deliver Essential Services

September 7, 2020

A 70-kilowatt solar energy system was installed at 22nd May Hospital to ensure uninterrupted services for its Intensive Care Units, Emergency Obstetrics, Dialysis Unit, and COVID-19 Isolation Center. | Photo credit: UNDP Yemen

There are long queues at fuel stations. Fuel prices have skyrocketed. The rising cost of water, transport and essential goods endure. And COVID-19 continues to spread unabated throughout Yemen.

Since June, the conflict-effected communities of Yemen’s northern governorates have struggled under the crippling effects of the oil crisis. Depleted oil reserves have resulted in the limited operation and delivery of key public services – including healthcare. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, this highlights a critical need for alternative fuel sources to ensure healthcare facilities can continue to operate.

“Most of the medical machines dependent on electricity are life-saving. Their interruption for just a few minutes may mean the loss of someone’s life,” explains Dr. Abdulkareem Al-Jarmouzi, a health officer working with UNDP’s implementing partner, the Social Fund for Development (SFD).

With major health facilities now struggling to maintain their operations amid dwindling fuel and power supplies, healthcare services are being reduced, rescheduled, or stopped. So how can we fight COVID-19, meet the power demand, and boost the resilience of healthcare facilities?

With support from the European Union (EU), the Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP) will rehabilitate 86 affected healthcare facilities, furnish them and provide the critical medical equipment required to return them to service. Once completed, SPCRP aims to achieve uninterrupted operations for the delivery of essential healthcare services to nearly 376,000 people by providing them with photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems. To date, 70 of the 86 targeted healthcare facilities – including nine with COVID-19 isolation units – have been rehabilitated and supported, ensuring better access to healthcare for more than 136,500 people across 12 governorates.

In addition to the rehabilitation work, SPCRP’s integrated support for the installation of solar energy systems includes solar PV panels, new electrical networks, batteries, control units, external lighting, and replacement of existing electrical fixtures to ensure their compatibility with the provided systems. Systems range from 1.5 to 70-kilowatts according to the facilities’ power load and needs, with one of the largest facilities – the 22nd May Hospital in Sana’a governorate – receiving a 70-kilowatt system to support its operation.

SPCRP is also working to ensure the protection of frontline healthcare workers by providing much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) in nine COVID-19 isolation centers. This includes 1,200 packages containing a total of 18,000 masks, 18,000 pairs of gloves and 3,600 bottles of sanitizer.

Emphasizing the importance of an uninterrupted power supply for healthcare facilities, Dr. Jubran Al-Sulait, Quality Affairs Consultant for Sana’a Health Office, explains: “People sometimes travel for hundreds of kilometres to find a fully functioning healthcare facility, especially from rural areas. Even if fully equipped and manned, healthcare facilities that consistently experience power supply interruptions or fuel shortages are not used for fear that someone may die.” He goes on to indicate that “SPCRP has helped to restore man affected facilities through the rehabilitation and provision of a renewable source of energy.”

Through these projects, the EU reiterates its commitment to support the Yemeni people, before and during the war, and now in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About SPCRP:

The Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP) is funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Social Fund for Development (SFD). The US$28 million SPCRP enhances the purchasing capacity of vulnerable communities while restoring community infrastructure and improving access to and delivery of key services through short-term employment, provision of solar energy equipment, rehabilitating healthcare facilities, and building the capacities of communities and local authorities.