Powering and Empowering Healthcare Systems in Uganda

Powering and Empowering Healthcare Systems in Uganda

Airlink, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), Qatar Airways, Flexport.org, and We Care Solar join forces to bring reliable sources of solar power to medical facilities in Uganda. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has held our attention for close to a year and continues to overwhelm medical providers and health systems around the world. In countries with preexisting shortages of medical supplies and critical materials to maintain essential services, the presence of COVID-19 has added further strain. 

Our nonprofit partners are identifying gaps in healthcare provision and leveraging their expertise to respond where it’s needed most; distributing personal protective equipment (PPE), increasing testing capacity, delivering lifesaving pharmaceuticals, and empowering frontline health facilities and community health workers. 

Our partners at We Care Solar work to eradicate a predominant and often overlooked barrier to administering health services – equitable access to power and electricity.  In We Care Solar’s program countries, frontline health workers are overwhelmed by the simultaneous demand for health services related to COVID-19, preexisting infectious diseases, and routine procedures such as childbirth. 

Providing health services is further complicated without reliable power sources and electricity. It’s easy to take regular access to electricity for granted and not recognize our reliance on electricity for our health services and related medical needs.

But, according to a review from the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four medical facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Even when facilities do have access to electricity, frequent power outages compromise health workers’ ability to properly examine, diagnose, and treat individuals requiring life-saving services. Health providers are forced to rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and cell phone lights that they hold in their mouths to perform complicated procedures. Working in near darkness, health workers cannot safely provide essential services or maintain infection control protocols. 

We Care Solar is a nonprofit organization with the mission of saving lives in childbirth by increasing clean energy access to health centers. Since 2010, We Care Solar has been achieving this through the design and distribution of their Solar Suitcase, a compact and easy-to-use solar electric system. 

Solar Suitcases are distributed to last-mile health facilities and provide medical lighting and power for mobile communication and small medical devices, such as fetal Dopplers and infrared thermometers. The medical devices include rechargeable batteries, extending the usage of potentially life saving devices. Not only does this provide healthcare providers the ability to safely and efficiently care for their patients, but it increases the hours in a day that patients can be treated. With more patients being treated and monitored, health systems increase their capacity to limit further COVID-19 infections.

Increasing access to reliable electricity has become even more important in the global response to COVID-19. When critical shipments of Solar Suitcases required faster transit to We Care Solar programs in Uganda, Airlink was able to coordinate movement alongside our partners. With generous support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), Qatar Airways, and Flexport.org, 232 Solar Suitcases and required materials were transported to Uganda to support health facilities in Western Uganda as part of We Care Solar’s Light Every Birth Initiative. 

Through these partnerships, Airlink provided cargo movement, valued at over $60,000, free of charge. This shipment will increase equitable access to electricity, which will provide lifesaving medical care to patients in need. To date, We Care Solar has equipped over 1,400 health centers in Uganda, serving an estimated 26 million people. We encourage you to learn more about We Care Solar and their impact here.

Header Photo Credit: Simon Odongo, We Care Solar

Bethany Holland

Bethany Holland

Bethany Holland is the Humanitarian Programs Manager at Airlink. Her role includes managing and expanding Airlink's NGO partnerships, building Airlink's capacity in disaster-prone regions around the world, and coordinating the mobilization of passengers and cargo in support of humanitarian emergencies around the world.

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