A new report finds nearly a billion people in the world’s poorer countries are treated for often life-threatening conditions in health care facilities that lack a reliable electricity supply. A joint report by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the International Renewable Energy Agency, “Energizing Health: Accelerating Electricity Access in Health-Care Facilities,” has just been issued.
Health officials say electricity access in health care facilities can make the difference between life and death.
Heather Adair-Rohani is Acting Unit Head, Air Quality, Energy and Health at the World Health Organization. She says it is critical that health care facilities have a reliable, always functioning electricity supply available.
“Imagine going to a health care facility with no lights, with no opportunity to have a baby warmer functioning,” said Adair-Rohani. “To have medical devices functioning and powered all the time. It’s absolutely fundamental that we have this electricity. This is an often-overlooked infrastructure aspect of health care facilities that are desperately needed to continue to provide care to those most vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries.”
The report finds more than one in 10 health facilities in South Asia and sub-Saharan African countries lack any electricity access. It adds power is unreliable for half of all facilities in sub-Saharan Africa.
It notes electricity is needed to power the most basic devices such as lights and refrigeration as well as devices that measure vital signs like heartbeat and blood pressure. It says increasing the electrification of health-care facilities is essential to save lives.
Adair-Rohani adds it is important to maintain these systems once they are installed to ensure their reliability and functionality.
“Reliable decentralized renewable electricity in health care facilities can really ensure the resilience of climate change for health care facilities so that they can provide care in the most dire circumstances and provides emergency preparedness so that yes, indeed, when there is a hurricane or floods or what have you, they still are able to have some form of power to provide emergency care as needed,” said Adair-Rohani.
Authors of the report say healthcare systems and facilities increasingly are affected by the accelerating impacts of climate change. They say decentralized sustainable renewable energy solutions are available. For example, they note solar photovoltaic systems are cost-effective and clean and can be rapidly deployed on site.
The authors say building climate-resilient health care systems can meet the challenges of a changing climate while ensuring the delivery of quality health care services.