One of the largest reasons people do not use our village health center is because of its lack of electricity. Women often do not choose to give birth there and rarely come for antenatal visits due to the lack of cold chain services and vaccinations.
Additionally, the health center sees very few patrons due to a general lack of trust and understanding of how preventative measures can be taken to health. This project would provide a constant source of electricity for my community’s hospital and encourage its inhabitants in the utilization of the hospital as a life-saving resource.
The addition of solar panels would support a multitude of resources: simple light for night time births or treatment of frequent motorcycle accident injuries, a refrigerator to store vaccines, and lab equipment, such as a microscope for diagnosing malaria, as well as a sanitization machine for cleaning medical instruments.
Providing electricity to my community Integrated Health Center is a primary need in my village. In a rural community of East Cameroon, there is no infrastructure for electricity beyond the occasional generator.
The leaders of the community support this project and are financially contributing to its success. By closely working with suppliers and trained technicians, the installation and continued maintenance will ensure this system stays running for years to come.
The interest and idea for this project came from my health staff, including nurses, a pharmacist, and our chief of center. Because neighboring health centers have similar solar systems and have seen successes with increased hospital births and community involvement with the hospital, personnel in East Cameroon are very interested in improving the same way. They have started many meetings and discussions with the PCV, helping him coordinate just how best to go about starting the project and talking to which parts of the community.
The community involvement in this project will be purely financial. Unfortunately, due to the need for skilled workers and a very specific and sophisticated list of resources, there are few places for in-kind donations.
The personnel at the health center, along with the village chief, mayor, Sous Préfet, Chief of the Development Committee, neighboring health center, and District Medical Officer, have expressed interest, support, and guidance for the design of this project. They understand its feasibility and believe it will make positive strides for the community’s overall health.
The vast majority of the funding will come from the Mayor’s office, the Sous Préfets office, the Development Committee, and the District Medical Office.
During our opening ceremony, we hope to include the community by holding large educational sessions to introduce the village to the improved capacity of the health center. This will create momentum to continue educational talks where none are presently and simultaneously welcome individuals to the health center who may have not felt welcomed before.
The ultimate objective of this project and its strongest feature is its permanence and sustainability. These panels will last for a minimum of 20 years, long after Peace Corps has finished sending volunteers. The ability to provide clean, renewable power to the village at little-to-no expense will be beneficial and important to the health center’s success. The trust built now will cascade into future generations and encourage preventative health measures to be taken.
Electricity will also help improve electronic records in the future, helping to create better accountability and more accurate case management to benefit the patients and the community.
Upkeep, maintenance, and long-term functionality will be ensured through multiple avenues. A nurse from the health center will be trained on basic functionality, while the Sous Préfet’s secretary has also agreed to help with maintenance. He is in charge of the Sous Préfet’s office, has a solar system of his own, and also organizes all electrical systems during community festivities and events.
Beyond this solar system, East Cameroon hopes to one day see electricity come from the local area again. Authorities in the area do not think this will happen soon, but this project will ameliorate health issues until this day comes in the very distant future.
Funding for this project is only going to be used for the solar panel system’s initial purchase. The capacity building component requires no funding and the benefits will be seen for many years in the future. Staff and health center personnel will be taught maintenance and upkeep procedures to ensure it is economically feasible to maintain power for years to come.