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"Govt powers 85 health facilities"

As power outages continue to threaten the delivery of quality services, government has installed solar-powered electricity in 85 health facilities across the country to reduce the impact of persistent blackouts on health service and boost operations in facilities that never had power, the Ministry of Health has said.

In the last meeting of Parliament, Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi acknowledged the negative effect of blackouts on hospitals and promised that by December 20 this year, government would provide solar energy to 85 health centers.

Asked on the progress of the project, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the ministry has achieved its target with all 85 health formations in the first phase installed with solar power.

He said: “Our target was 85 health centres and we are happy we have met the target and all 85 health centres now have solar power.

“In 2018, we will target 25 facilities; otherwise, funding permitting, we want all facilities to have solar power even those connected to Escom [Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi). In so doing, we believe we will improve service delivery in line with our goals.”

According to a Ministry of Health report on the update of the solar project, Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe has 50 kilowatt (KW) solar installation while district hospitals such as Ntchisi, Mchinji, Nkhotakota and Chitipa have solar panels with the capacity of 10KW. Dowa and Dedza have 5KW. solar panels each.

The programme has also targeted health facilities under Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham). According to Malango, Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) will be installed with solar power worth 100kw next month under the second phase.

Thyolo district health officer (DHO) Arnold Jumbe said in a telephone interview yesterday that the development is a boost to the hospitals’ operations.

“As Thyolo District, we have four of our health centres powered which include Bvumbwe and Thekerani. The other two are powered by Escom but the solar power will ensure that there is no interruption in our services. And the powered health centres have labour wards and maternity wings so the solar power is also a contribution towards safe motherhood, ” he said.

In Karonga, the district hospital and Chilumba Rural Hospital have benefitted from the arrangement.

In an interview,  Karonga DHO Phinias Mfune said while it is too early to assess the real impact, it is obvious that solar power would reduce running costs.

He said solar would largely power the maternity wing and laboratory in both hospitals in the long run, cutting down their expenditure in terms of diesel for generators in case of Escom failure.

Government is expected to spend about K2.7 billion on this project which is supported by The Global fund.

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