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Solar Energy Boosts Access To PHCs In Dakwa Community

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Poor or low access to electricity remains a challenge that has hindered many communities from accessing basic health services in primary healthcare centres in the FCT. It is therefore no wonder that the supply of solar panels to provide electricity to Dakwa PHC by VAYA Energy, has boosted the confidence of community members to fully embrace the services of the clinic, Friday Editor, Ruth Tene Natsa writes.

The reality that several communities within the federal capital territory have no access to electricity, to the point that primary health care centres, such as the Dakwa PHC, had to depend on lanterns during deliveries when they occurred at night, remains a sad reality that many communities in Nigeria have to live with.
This challenge remained one of the key challenges of the Health Centre, located in Dakwa community of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), a community which provides first line health services to over 600 people
According to the Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW) and head of Dakwa Primary Healthcare Centre, Mrs Martha Dikko, the kerosene lamps where sustained through the purchase of kerosene from the internally generated revenue (IGR) received from patients’ purchase of drugs. Other things bought from the IGR include purchase of water, chemicals and payment to sprayers.

Speaking when the Energy Audit/Experience team for PHCs visited the centre in Abuja on Friday, August 3, 2018, she recalled that prior to the supply of the solar panels by VAYA Energy, they had to store their vaccines at Juwa, a neighbouring community, where they collected and returned them on a weekly basis.
She said, “the facility, which is responsible for four communities including Gofina, Kokoife, Dakwa Sarki and Gwalada until recently, had no energy source or water and had to depend on the use of lamps during deliveries, while buying water from mai-ruwa who buy from boreholes.”
Mrs Dikko told LEADERSHIP Friday that the clinic, which started April 2014, has no resident doctor, nurse or midwife, but rather, is being run by Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) who catered to minor cases. Including two permanent staff, two volunteer staff, a volunteer cleaner and a volunteer night watch.
As part of activities offered by the centre, the CHEW said, “We offer TT on Monday (ante-natal) while Wednesdays are for children. We also go for outreaches in our catchment areas for those unable to come to the facility.”
Stating that VAYA Energy came to them between March and June 2016, she said that the organisation, had supported the centre with a solar storage system that includes an inverter, charge controller, solar modules and batteries as well as two standing fans and a refrigerator for the storage of vaccines, adding that the new power source now supplies the fan, bulbs and refrigerator in the PHC.

“The support of the organisation had made it such that at every given time, people come for immunisation, they get it without the staff having to run to Juwa” she said.
Speaking on challenges being recorded in the PHC, Mrs Dikko said, “the challenges we have include lack of delivery beds, which made us have to use our normal beds to conduct deliveries. But when VAYA Company came, there were lots of improvements as lights flooded the health centre and now we are able to get more mothers coming for delivery, compared to the past when lesser number of women came in.”
She further added that the PHC has just a small lab for running small tests such as Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT), Malaria, HIV test and urinalyses, which do not require light, further stating that the clinic also has several vaccines including Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCG), Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), Pental, Yellow fever, Tetanus Toxoid (TT), Immune Therapeutic Vaccine (ITV) and measles.
“Having the fridge now, we do not have to stress ourselves to go to Juwa as it helps us set to out very early when we can meet mothers, “So, the VAYA project has saved us both money and time,” she said
She assured that since the supply of the solar panels, the centre which used to close at 4pm now runs a 24 hour-shift even as the clinic has recorded increased patronage running to over a hundred from locals in recent times.
The head of facility, who lamented the poor state of security in the clinic, recalled that while the solar panels had been a huge blessing, they were robbed and three of the panels had been stolen when they clocked a year.
Recalling that even though the AMAC chairman had visited the clinic in May, asking about their challenges, even sending people to come and take surveys of the PHCs, nothing had been done yet to address the water challenges. She urged the AMAC leadership to help the PHC with the supply of delivery beds, potable water, access road and staff quarters as well as more staff.
Also speaking, a volunteer cleaner, Zainab Rabiu, who said she began work in the PHC since 2014 when it was started, said she had remained a volunteer staff.
She lamented that the centre was challenged by lack of working tools such as brushes, disinfectants, gloves among several others.
A community member and mother of six, Hauwa Sanusi, said she had benefitted from the services of the clinic as she had, had the benefit of taking all her immunisations, ante-natal and even delivery there.
In her words, “they cared for me beyond expectation, even more than other hospitals would care for me and for that, I use every opportunity to advise friends who ask me, to patronise the facility.”
A junior CHEW, who said she had worked in the clinic for four years, said the job had been a huge learning opportunity as she had learnt to conduct deliveries, family planning and antenatal treatments among others.”
She however lamented that as a volunteer staff, they only benefited from the charity of the clinic and not government. She called on the leadership of the AMAC to grant them full time appointments as well as provide staff quarters for them.
Energy remains one of the basic infrastructures critical to human and economic development of a people, it is however sad that this most important amenity remains one of the key challenges of the FCT and indeed, Nigeria as a nation.
Project coordinator for the sustainable Nigerian project of the , Heinrich Bolt Foundation, Donald Ikenna, in an exclusive interview, told LEADERSHIP Friday that what inspired the project was the fact that access to electricity for development is key and within the Nigerian context, they basically have all it takes to have constant electricity throughout the country.
“We have very good sunlight, lots of water and waste, many of which could be harnessed for electricity to create jobs, solve most of our problems from access to health, better education and better working condition. However, we are not seeing all of that, so we think it is very important for us to start reaching out to different partners to see how we could start coming out with projects that would basically give Nigerians more access to electricity.”
“If it comes to health, we know Nigeria has the highest figure in terms of maternal and child health and our health care systems are going through major challenges from infrastructure to manpower and a blend of both of them would actually be electricity,” he said .
Ikenna was optimistic that for people to work well in hospitals and for facilities and machines to function well, there is need for electricity.
“So, we thought that now that the Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Power, is looking at re-energising universities, we will do the same for hospitals in our communities, as many of them do not have vaccinations, night duties or medical staff as a result of lack of electricity”.
So, we think it is very important to find success stories like Dakwa. We want to see how we can amplify this kind of solutions, having solar systems for Primary Health Care Centres all across Nigeria.
He said the Heinrich Bolt Foundation is a Greek-German Foundation, which supports civil society organisations and private sector to drive sustainable development and come up with interventions that could better the lives of Nigerians, the environment, earth and the whole world.
Also speaking, the MD/ CEO, VAYA Energy, Stanley Vandu, said, “When we started the company, we needed to start something to show we knew what we were doing at our own cost, so there was a choice as to where to go, whether schools or hospitals and we agreed on a hospital where the impact will be felt most.
So, we went to AMAC and they selected a hospital for us mainly because it was off-grid, they had no power at all.
He recalled that, “before we installed the system, they had no light or storage for their vaccines, so, any time they had to vaccinate they had to go to other local governments to get their vaccines and return them afterwards.”
We gave them power in March 2016, and since then, they have had power for 24 hours, adding that the project has been a good selling point for them, as from that project, they were able to get financing from Shell for another hospital in Nasarawa State.
We are trying to break into the FCT and also the Primary Health Care Development Agency, because with the plan to revitalise 10,000 PHC, we are trying to see how we can get in to provide power for this PHCs.
“What I have realised is no matter how well you renovate the buildings and put beds, if there is no power, everything is of no use, because power really drives every-thing. At least it helps to store drugs and ensure the place is well lit. Power for us, is key and for this kind of place, it has to be sustainable”.
Speaking on their challenges, he said, “Funding has been a challenge, because we are still self-funded. We also have challenges of regulation, government incentives, alleged customs duties on solar panels and insecurity. The cost of solar panels drops yearly, but solar panels cannot be installed without batteries and it makes cost of installation very expensive, including cost of electricity from PHCN among several others.
VAYA Energy, which was registered in 2015 and started operations in 2016, has the objectives of providing PHCs with electricity to power critical devices, educate staff and surrounding community on the use of solar photovoltaics, involve communities in various stages of building the system, as well as showcase VAYA Energy’s commitment to support communities and the environment.

QUOTE:

Energy remains one of the basic infrastructures critical to human and economic development of a people, it is however sad that this most important amenity remains one of the key challenges of the FCT and indeed, Nigeria as a nation.



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