From energy poverty to Health care: the role of renewable energy in improving healthcare in Bouaké.

As part of the ongoing efforts to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global climate emergency, the #KotiakróA360 project has been launched. This project is being led by our engineer, Maria Vivancos, and has received funding from the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD). The primary goal of this initiative is to enhance the provision of healthcare services at the Health Center and Maternity Ward located in the Kottiakoffikro neighbourhood of Bouaké city in Ivory Coast.

During the intervention in the area, a photovoltaic generation system has been implemented, which has ensured the availability of electricity 24 hours a day and improved the energy efficiency of the impacted center. It should be noted that in many areas of Africa, the general electricity network is unstable and causes frequent power outages.

This often results in hospitals or health centers being left in the dark while consultations, surgeries, etc. are being carried out, or medical equipment deteriorating due to poor quality of the network.

Additionally, the intervened infrastructure benefits from energy savings by consuming less energy from the grid.

The implementation of solar panels enables the stabilization of electrical supply and ensures its availability, which provides a substantial improvement in the service and provision of healthcare, as well as the lifespan of medical equipment, by minimizing network failures.

In the first phase of the project, our project manager and engineer worked with local technicians to install a photovoltaic system that ensured the availability of locally-produced electrical energy from renewable sources. During the process, the technicians were trained in maintaining the solar plant, promoting maximum local autonomy possible. Moreover, this installation has also enabled the availability of locally-produced medical oxygen with concentrators.

Oxygen is an essential medicine for the management of childbirth and the treatment of childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, malaria, or sepsis, which are prevalent in the intervention area. Furthermore, with the COVID-19 pandemic, oxygen became even more critical for health centers and hospitals such as Kotiakró, which was designated by the Ministry of Health as a center for the isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients. At that time, during the pandemic, it was anticipated that, while the majority of treated patients presented mild symptoms, 14% would require oxygen in the hospital, and 5% would require mechanical ventilation in intensive care. Therefore, the availability of medical oxygen became a vital issue to ensure the health and well-being of the population.

The installation of 3 concentrators has allowed the hospital to have guaranteed access to medical oxygen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in order to meet the needs for medical oxygen, which were previously not guaranteed.

As explained by Eugène Kra Kouassi, President of AIP, and Assé Kouadio Innocent, Director of the Pediatrics Department at the CHU (University Hospital Center), in the documentary you can watch, prior to the intervention, there were no public hospitals in the area that could administer continuous oxygen. Before the project, the only healthcare center in the city with oxygen availability was the CHU. However, the supply was not guaranteed, as it was provided through cylinders that were filled at centralized plants in Abiyán, which is a 5-hour drive from Bouaké.

Indeed, due to the lack of availability of continuous oxygen supply in Bouaké, patients would have to be transferred to the hospital in Yamoussoukro. Therefore, it was deemed necessary to find alternatives for the supply of medical oxygen in Bouaké.

If someone outside the city needed this treatment, they often had to travel more than 40 km to reach the CHU in Bouaké. Many times they arrived and there was no oxygen available in the cylinders.

In addition to the installation of the oxygen concentrators, technical and healthcare personnel were trained on the proper use of the equipment and improved patient care. The project not only includes the technical aspects related to the installations, but also aims to approach healthcare and health improvement through the sensibilisation of the local population near the Kotiakró Health Center, through the training of women’s groups in different villages and neighborhoods.

Throughout the different phases of the project, informative sessions on sexual and maternal-infant rights have been carried out with the aim of improving women’s health and the overall health of the community. These sessions provide knowledge and tools to promote sexual health from a rights-based approach focused on the well-being of individuals.

We work on projects like this because we believe that access to energy improves access to other rights such as the right to good healthcare or the right to education. Although the intervention in the area has already been completed, we are waiting to obtain results and assess the impact of the project on improving healthcare, both in terms of equipment, healthcare personnel, and beneficiaries.

Maria Vivancos

Maria Vivancos

Head of Cooperation & Oxygen Area

Azimut World