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Electrification of Six Health Centres in Rhino Camp and Imvepi Refugee Settlements in Uganda – Baseline Assessment Results

BACKGROUND

Uganda is among twenty countries with the largest population lack­ing access to electricity where only 43% of the total population have access to electricity. The importance of reliable, sustainable and accessible energy for health centers in undebatable. Electricity is required for lighting to visualize patients for examination, procedures, and monitoring; to operate life-saving electric medical devices and diagnostic equipment as well as sterilize equipment; refrigerate medicines and biologic samples for diagnostic testing; and facilitate communication between healthcare providers for emergency medical transport, consultations, coordination and more. Based on the results from the 2007 Uganda Service Provision, 58% of health facilities did not have access to electricity and only 15% had “reliable” electricity. When further disaggregated on the basis of health facility type, 60% of lower level health facilities do not have access to electricity.

Against this background, the GIZ programmes Energy Solutions for Displacement Settings (ESDS) and Energising Development (EnDev) intended to provide and install off-grid photovoltaic system (OGS PVS) for six health centres located within Rhino Camp and Imvepi Refugee Settlements in Terego and Madi Okollo districts, Uganda in 2021. This article provides a summary of the baseline assessment results that was conducted in 2021 prior to the electrification of these six health centers.

Methodology

The relationship between energy access and health is assessed using proxy indicators on facility performance (operating hours – night-time, total hours per day; clinic visits), availability of electricity and/or electrical equipment for health service delivery (specific to health facility (WHO/SARA and USAID/Measure Health surveys), and healthcare worker attitudes and motivation.

There are three main study limitations:

1.      Lack of facility disaggregated Health Information System

2.      Unequal sex ratio among community representatives

3.     Unable to access some solar components for observation and documentation 

Baseline Assessment Results

Selection of health centres

Five health facilities fall under the direct managing authority of the Ministry of Health (MOH) (three in Terego and two in Madi Okollo in service 25 to 29 years) and one health facility is under the direct managing authority of International Rescue Committee (IRC) (in service for 5 years). Regardless of managing authority, all health facilities receive support – technical, infrastructural, staffing, and other – from the Ministry of Health, a multitude of implementing partners, and UNHCR. The managing authority of health facilities have important implications on the engagement of stakeholders for ownership, maintenance, and sustainability of the OGS PVS assets.

Across all health facilities, the largest number of nationals within catchment population are from South Sudan, followed by Uganda, and then the Democratic of Congo. Refugees from Burundi, Kenya, and the Central Africa Republic are also represented in Ocea HC II in Madi Okollo, Rhino Camp.

Overview of the selected health centers

Health Center Refugee Settlement District Health Facility Level Managing Authority Years of Service Catchment Population
Refugee Host Total
Imvepi HC II Imvepi Terego HC II MOH 26 19,668 3,224 22,892
Yinga HC III Imvepi Terego HC III MOH 25 10,813 7.351 18,164
Siripi HC III Rhino Camp Terego HC III MOH 27 13,090 5,500 18,590
Ofua HC III Rhino Camp Terego HC III IRC 5 26,952 Unknown Unknown
Ocea HC II Rhino Camp Madi Okollo HC II MOH 26 18,428 3,729 22,157
Odoubu HC II Rhino Camp Madi Okollo HC II MOH 29 12,461 4,500 16,961

Baseline: Electrification Status

None of the six health centres were connected to the national or community grid. However, all six health centres had at least one partially function OGS PVS and 3 health facilities had at least one diesel generator. Five had standalone EPI solar refrigerators to store and ensure cold chain of vaccines and oxytocin. Four had a We Care Solar installed to charge small devices, such as the HemoCue, Foetal Doppler, and mobile phone, and only 3 of the We Care Solar are functional as the battery of the We Care Solar was stolen at one facility. Finally, Two health facilities had Mobile Power (MoPo) power banks to provide additional power

Reliability of Electricity from the solar system

The table below shows the reliability of the solar electricity where the different colour shows the different reliability status.

Reliability of Solar Electricity

Measure 1: During the last 7 days, was electricity at all times from the main or any back up sources when the facility was open for services?

1=Always available (no interruptions) – green

2=Often available (interruptions of less than 2 hours per day) – yellow

3=Sometimes available (frequent or prolonged interruptions of more than 2 hours per day) red

Measure 2: How many days during the past week was electricity not available for at least 2 hours during a time the facility was open for services? This includes emergency services.

0-7

Reliability of Electricity Imvepi HC II

(Imvepi)

Ocea HC II

(Rhino Camp)

Odoubu HC II

(Rhino Camp)

Yinga HC III

(Imvepi)

Siripi HC III

(Rhino Camp)

Ofua HC III

(Rhino Camp)

  Outpatient 7 7 3 6 7 7
  Pharmacy 7 7 3 6 7 7
  Laboratory 7 7 3 6 7 7
  Inpatient ward 0 Not wired 0 7 0 7
  Maternity 0 7 0 7 0 7
  HIV/TB Clinic 7 7 3 7 7 7
  Nutrition Ward N/A N/A N/A 7 N/A 7
  SGBV Protection House Not wired N/A 3 0 N/A N/A
  Security Guard House Not wired Not wired Not wired 7 Not wired Not wired
  Staff Quarters 7 7 3 7 7 7
7
7
7
7
7
  Isolation Ward Not wired Not wired Not wired Not wired Not wired COVID19 – 0
TB ward not wired
  Latrines + Bathing Shelters Not wired Not wired Not wired Not wired Not wired Not wired
  Security lights Gate - 7 IPD - 7 N/A Gate – 0 0 0
IPD – 0
Isolation – 0
Staff quarters - 0 Latrine - 7 Maternity - 7
  Medicine Stores 7 7 0 6 7 7


Availability of solar lighting on a typical night in the maternity ward during dry and rainy seasons (data from 2021 Baseline Qualitative Interviews)

Health Center Availability of Lighting on a Typical Night in Maternity Ward During Dry Season

(January 2021)

Availability of Lighting on a Typical Night in Maternity Ward During Rainy Season

(September 2020)

Difference in Hours of Availability of Lighting Between Dry and Rainy Seasons
Imvepi HC II No data No data No data
Yinga HC III 7pm to 2am (7 hours) 7pm to 11pm (4 hours) -3 hours
Siripi HC III 7pm to 5am (10 hours) 7pm to 2am (7 hours) -3 hours
Ofua HC III 8pm to 6am (10 hours) 8pm to 2am (6 hours) -4 hours
Ocea HC II 7pm to 2.30am (7.5 hours) 7pm to 10pm (3 hours) -4.5 hours
Odoubu HC II 7pm to 6am (11 hours) 7pm to 2am (7 hours) -4 hours

Maintenance of the energy systems

For diesel systems, all 3 health facilities reported having a routine preventive maintenance program. However, they do no have their own strategies for repair and replacement but rather report to donor in such cases. Only one facility had trained staff on maintenance and one reported on having an O&M manual.

For solar systems, 3/6 reported having a routine preventive maintenance programme for their solar systems. 1/6 reported receiving maintenance support from an external technician 2/6 reported performing on-site cleaning of the solar arrays, but without a specialized technician. If there were problems with the solar systems at the health facility, 2/6 facilities said they would call the donor for replacement and 4/6 facilities said they did not have a formalized system in place. None of the facilities reported having staff trained on how to maintain a solar system and one health facility (1/6) reported having an O&M manual for the solar system.

Electricity and Health Service Delivery at the Health Centers

According to the five facility in-charges under MOH, the first solar panels were installed when the health facilities were established for the arrival of the first wave of refugees from South Sudan over 20 years ago. Multiple partners, including Care International, Danish Refugee Council, and UNICEF, have since donated and installed different OGS PVS in select wards/ departments/ units and staff quarters.

While each health facility appears to have many OGS PVS, few of them are fully functional. Healthcare workers report frequent interruptions of electricity at the health facility and have developed multiple strategies to mitigate the impact of energy deficit on health service delivery. These mitigation strategies are categorized into four main categories:

-       conserving energy for emergency use,

-       finding alternative systems for energy (e.g., dry cell batteries, diesel generator..)

-       use of manual, non-electric methods in consultation, diagnostic, sterilization of equipment, and reporting, improvising locale of service delivery to access energy (e.g., moving patient to another ward to access lighting or electricity)

-       patient referral to another health facility or sending out patient samples for analysis at another laboratory.

Ownership of Solar Systems

There is limited sense of ownership for the existing OGS PVS with the exception of the Mobile Power charging stations. In case of any failure, the health facility’s strategy is to call the district or the partner for help and replacement. According to several healthcare workers, capacitating the staff to look after the solar systems can help them feel ownership and responsibility towards these assets.

Capacity building for maintenance of the solar systems

None of the health centers are capaicted to provide routine maintenance of the solar systems and od not have designated staffs for O&M of the existing OGS PVS. In genera, Interviewed healthcare workers and HUMC members showed wiliness to learn basic O&M skills. The District Health Officer noted that Arua Regional Referral Hospital’s equipment maintenance unit has existing capacity and expertise which could be leveraged on.

Funding for maintenance, repair, and replacement of solar systems

The primary source of funding is donors grants and apart from that two additional sources like Capital Development Fund and the District Development Equalization grant were identified. For health facilities manged by MOH, the funding sources include: Primary Health Care (PHC) Fund and Results-Based Financing

As a result of limited funding opportunities and the recognition that repairs and replacements of solar components, such as batteries will exceed what is available from the PHC funds, HUMC, health facility staff, and district health officers feel that GIZ should budget funds to support the maintenance of OGS PVS. HUMC and healthcare workers are eager for support to initiate income-generating activities in order to generate funds to support the minor maintenance and repair of the solar systems. Each site had its own ideas of what would work in its setting (see below table). Notably, these income-generating activities would need an injection of start-up capital in order to be functionalized.


Ideas of income generating activities to sustain OGS PVS

Health facility Proposed Income Generating Activities to sustain OGS PVS Proposed Management of Income-Generating Activities
Yinga HC III Canteen with excess energy to charge phones and power a refrigerator to sell cold drinks, also offer mobile money services

HUMC can also sell some trees they own

HUMC
Imvepi HC II Canteen with excess energy to charge phones, sell cold drinks, and power a photocopier so they can offer photocopying services HUMC
Ocea HC II Kiosk with excess energy to charge phones at a fee of 300 shs. Power a refrigerator to sell cold drinks, sell home-made bread in canteen, offer printing and photocopying services, start a saloon for shaving hair for men and women, put up a place to repair phones and computers, sell airtime, No data
Siripi HC III Charge phones at 300 shs, call upon RWC and community members to make contribution to solar systems, sell cold drinks in fridge, offer photocopying services, sell dry ratios, start mobile money services, ask GIZ to bring power banks for rental (similar to MoPo) so they can hire out the power banks for money LCs and healthcare workers
Ofua HC II Collect contributions from community members of about 100-500 per individual, work through “block leaders”, borrow money from the saving group, use excess energy to charge phones of 500 UGX, sell cold drinks, sell mixed goods – soap, biscuits, books, pens, cosmetics, torches, and batteries HUMC
Odoubu HC II Use excess energy to buy a photocopier and printer, offer phone charging at 500 UGX, start a photo studio, put a pool table at the youth friendly services and charge people to play it, laundry services to wash and iron people’s clothes, start a saloon for men and women, sell drinks and put a TV to entice people to come HUMC and community leaders
DHO Terego Charge healthcare workers residing in staff quarters with OGS PVS for the electricity District level – DHO, CAO, and LCV

Catchment area - Facility in-charges and sub-county chiefs as direct overseers of these health facilities

Within health facility activity - HUMC chairperson

RECOMMENDATIONS

Figure Model Sustainability Framework (United Nations Foundation and Sustainable Energy for All, 2019)

1.      Ensure adequate sizing of solar systems to fully functionalize health service delivery

2.      Develop and implement an O&M plan for each health facility

3.      Develop and implement a sustainability plan for each health facility

4.      Leverage health system strengthening opportunities with the anticipated improvement in availability and reliability of electricity

5.      Measuring impact