Tribal and forest communities in remote parts of the country are turning to renewable energy as a catalyst for delivering better healthcare. Two new videos from SELCO Foundation show the huge impact of distributed solar.
In Kalahandi, Odisha state, Swasthya Swaraj, a community health NGO, and SELCO installed rooftop solar in two villages that face difficult terrain and limited transport—with no facilities for emergency maternal care within 80 kilometers. Without access to reliable electricity, lab facilities were impacted, and cold chain and emergency treatment were difficult to maintain.
“To run all this technology, we require energy. Very often the main power supply is very erratic, so alternative solar energy is essential,” says Dr. Aquinas Edassery of Swasthya Swaraj.
After installing solar, the clinics are experiencing faster diagnosis and treatment. The microscope is consistently charged, a dryer can be used for blood samples and vaccines preserved with a solar-powered refrigerator. Mobile teams of women trained by the clinics are also now using a solar-powered “portable maternity kit” with solar lights to deliver babies, instead of relying on kerosene.
In Sittilingi, in Tamil Nadu state, SELCO and the Tribal Health Initiative (THI) are using rooftop solar to power the operating room at a hospital that serves 100,000 people from 250 villages. The hospital performs 100 operations per month, but faces serious power interruptions and voltage fluctuations that effect sensitive medical equipment.
“All care needs power and that is where solar power comes in very useful,” says Dr. Reji George of THI. The hospital tried diesel generators, but logistics of fuel supply and expense made it impractical. The operating room is now fully equipped, and on off days the power is used to sterilize instruments. Because of the solar installation, the hospital saves at least 120,000 rupee per year in defrayed diesel costs