Powering health care services: from diesel power to solar energy
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 8 April 2015
The increase in use of alternative sources of energy, though recent, has been widespread in the past few years. This growth comes in response to a number of concerns, including the secondary effects of pollution and global warming, health issues arising from exposure to traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal, and the general sustainability challenges of the environment. Harvesting energy from natural sources to which all of Lagos' residents have access has become important, as conventional energy sources are neither affordable nor available to all. The city of Lagos is now innovating by taking advantage of solar energy to provide power for services, especially health care.
In a recent effort to improve health care facilities and services, the city is embarking on a project to ensure the steady supply of power to a number of these facilities. Moving away from the use of heavily polluting diesel-powered generators to supply energy, infrastructure is being put into place to address the challenges of power supply in the health care system. The city has seven completed Maternal and Child Centers with 24-hour Primary Health Care service infrastructure, in Ikorodu, Ifako Ijaiye, Isolo, Gbaja, Ajegunle, Amuwo, and Igando. The innovation is not in the 24-hour powered health care service, however, but in the mode of providing the energy to support uninterrupted clinical services. The norm of covering power supply shortages at public facilities with diesel-powered generators is being abandoned in favor of solar power. The city is thus putting into place mechanisms to power the seven Primary Health Care Centers through solar energy. One hundred seventy-two schools across Lagos State will also be powered by solar energy by June 2015.
Although this project is just beginning, city leadership indicate commitment to the program and ensuring that it is widespread. One potential issue is that the project has been initiated in an election year, causing concern with regard to project continuity should a new party take over leadership. Timing is key when embarking on infrastructure-intensive work, and the dynamics of politics often slow down development. This highlights the importance of having a system that puts citizens' needs first, and not party ideology.
Nonetheless, other alternative energy projects do exist in Lagos, including the the First City Monument Bank and Lagos State's funding of 2,500 rechargeable solar lamps for distribution to school children. Through the Lagos Metropolitan and Governance Project, the World Bank is assisting in slum upgrading by installing solar street lights in low-income areas such as Bariga, Mkoko, and Badia. The city is definitely making strides in resolving issues of energy shortfalls; it can only be hoped that politics do not interfere.
Photo: Jeremy Weate