Hivos International

Absence of Energy Cripples Health Service Delivery

Community Energy Malawi (CEM) is currently working in a rural and remote area to promote uptake of green and inclusive energy with support from Hivos Southern Africa.

The project area is Balaka District, located in the south of Malawi. The district covers an area of 2,193 square kilometre representing 2.4 percent of the total land area of Malawi. It is the twentieth largest district in the country and the seventh largest in the southern region of Malawi.

In June, CEM conducted a tour of health centres in the district to gain understanding of the state of energy services in the area.

Three health centres that were visited share common challenges of lack of energy, putting the lives of patients at risk. These centres are either not connected to the national grid or have standalone PV solar systems that have been long abandoned.

As a result, the health centres are incapable of operating some medical equipment. According to a nurse at one of the health centres known as, Kwitanda Health Centre, they cannot conduct TB tests despite having sputum microscopy machines simply because of lack of energy.

“Due to lack of lighting at our institution, we continue to face numerous cases of theft,” said a security guard at the Kwitanda Health Centre lamented. VillageReach, a non profit organisation, that aims to improve the capacity and reach of health systems in remote, rural low-income countries, bought a water pump for the institution but unfortunately it was stolen.

Like  Kwitanda Health Centre, two other centres visited including Namanolo and Mwima Health Centres also face problems due to energy poverty. Problems include difficulties in attending to patients at night, no capacity to stock drugs and vaccines that require refrigeration and absence of safe and running water. All these centres rely on rain fed water systems and boreholes within their vicinity. The water is unsafe.

Following the visit, CEM is planning to meet with Balaka District council officials and the District Health Officer to begin the process of mapping out solutions to the glaring problem of energy at the health care centres in the district.