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Small local actions can contribute to global efforts to reduce emissions

IN November 2016 at the UN COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, 48 countries including Tanzania, committed to strive to meet 100 percent domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible while working to end energy poverty, and raise the quality of life of their nationals.

These countries are among the most vulnerable countries and are united as the Climate Vulnerable Forum. While access to domestic renewable energy mainly targeted individuals and families, it also targeted facilities that directly contribute to the wellbeing of these individuals.

Health care units, safe and clean water supply systems, primary and secondary schools as well as food processing units require clean renewable energy in order to provide quality services and promote the wellbeing of individuals and families.

It is against this backdrop that between 2006 and 2017, five health facilities in Kilimanjaro and Morogoro regions switched to the use of solar electricity with the aim of improving the quality of service, protecting the natural environment and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in a bid to contribute to the fight against climate change.

The units include a health centre, three district hospitals and a referral hospital shifted all of which adopted the use of renewable energy sources with the express aim of providing quality services and off-loading the electricity bill but also contributed to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With installation of solar electricity systems these medical facilities have reduced the use of diesel generators and firewood as sources of energy thanks to funding by UNDP through its Small Grants Programme. In 2011 the solar electricity system at Lugala Lutheran Hospital in Malinyi District, Morogoro Region, collapsed after the hybrid solar photovoltaic-diesel generator was struck by lightning.

The hospital was built in 1957 and renovated and expanded in 1997 in order to meet the rising demand for health services. Under the hybrid system, solar electricity was available for 21 hours a day while the diesel generator supplied electricity for three hours when demand was at its peak.

Following the damage, the management had to run the diesel generator for eight hours a day consuming 110 lts of diesel. According to the Medical Officer In-charge, Dr Emmanuel Chogo, the use of the diesel generator thus raised carbon dioxide emissions to 244.2 kgs per day from the previous 66.6kg per day.

“The damage to our electricity system had an impact not only to our delivery of service but also on the environment,” says Dr Chogo. In order to address the problem, the hospital applied and received a grant from the Small Grants Programme (SGP), which was used for rehabilitation and expansion of the solar system.

Currently all units of the hospital are supplied with reliable electricity from the solar system. “We have also installed two solar pumps in two wells that supply water to the hospital community. But another important thing is that we have done away with about 24,000kg of carbon dioxide that was emitted through the use of the diesel generator.

Maybe the amount is not significant but it adds up to global efforts to reduce emissions and fight climate change,” explains Dr Chogo St Francis Referral Hospital Ifakara in Kilombero District, Morogoro Region, had been connected to the grid by 2010 but faced an average of four months of power cuts in a year.

With such unreliable power supply, the hospital had to rely on the services of a diesel generator which produced an estimated 53, 280kg of carbon dioxide every year. However, with increased demand for services and subsequent expansion of the facility, a second generator with capacity of 700 lts of diesel has had to be installed.

“The combined carbon dioxide output of the two generators rose to 426,240kg a year. This is quite significant air pollution,” says Godfrey Mkwiche the hospital technician. With financial support from UNDP’s Small Grants Programme the hospital has installed solar electricity which is supplied to the main theatre, two minor theatres and the labour ward.

Plans are afoot to supply other units with solar electricity pending completion of the on-going of the hospital’s buildings.

“Currently there is no electricity from the grid for 12hrs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are also frequent blackouts on the remaining days. That is why we still have to use stand-by diesel generators and this defeats our goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” says Fr. Dr Winfried Gingo, the Director General of the hospital. The hospital is undertaking renovation of its buildings since 2013.

Some of the buildings are almost 100 years old. Under the circumstances, the solar system has had to be dismantled to pave way for the renovation.

“The wiring system has not been destroyed; we have only removed the solar panels, inverters and other components, all of which are kept safely in a store room,” explains Godfrey Mkwiche. “Renovation of the buildings will be completed by September 2020. Thereafter we will reinstall the solar electricity system. The plan is to expand the supply to more units of the hospital. We also plan to install a solar pump that will supply water to all the buildings,” says Fr. Gingo.

In April this year, the Huruma Catholic Hospital in Kilimanjaro Region which is the Rombo District Designate Hospital celebrated its 50 years of provision of health services. The hospital was built in 1969 and inaugurated by Father of the Nation, President Julius Kambarage Nyerere a year later, on April 1, 1970.

About 200 outpatients report for treatment at the hospital every day, which also has capacity to admit a similar number of patients while it serves a community of about 300,000 people. However until 2007, the hospital used to burn 140 tons of firewood every month for cooking and heating water for patients and staff living within the hospital compound.

No calculation has been made to determine the amount of carbon dioxide produced from the use of so much firewood but it is certainly a huge amount.

“Think also about the number of trees that have always been cut in order to produce this amount of firewood; there is quite a high rate of deforestation going on around this area which also adds up to global impacts of climate change,” says Dr Wilbroad Kyejo, the Medical Officer In-charge.

The Small Grants Programme extended a helping hand that enabled the hospital to purchase and install five solar heaters. These supplied water to all the wards and the main theatre. Installation of the solar water heaters has gone a long way towards providing comfort to the patients and reducing the hospital’s running costs.

“We still buy firewood for cooking but the amount has gone down to about 47 tons per month. We have reduced pollution and our financial expenditure on firewood. Probably we have also reduced deforestation,” says Sr. Charisma Dominic, the Hospital Secretary.

Mahenge Hospital, the district hospital for Ulanga District in Morogoro Region is connected to the grid but experiences power cuts for more than 12 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This does not only interrupt provision of services at the hospital but has compelled the hospital management to use a diesel generator as an alternative source of electricity.

With rising costs and contribution to global carbon emissions, the hospital had to look for a reliable source of electricity that is also environmental friendly. Two years ago the hospital applied for and received a grant from UNDP through the Small Grants Programme to install a backup solar electricity system that would increase availability and reliability of electricity.

“We have installed solar electricity in all the wards and our services have improved. But we have also stopped using the diesel generator and thus significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions. This is quite a big improvement,” explains Dr Mihambo Aloyce Kapela, the Medical Officer Incharge.

Mbingu Catholic Health Centre in Kilombero District, Morogoro Region, had been using a diesel generator to produce electricity for the hospital. The generator used to run for only four hours a day and sometimes it would not operate at all because the health centre was unable to buy diesel.

However, the total carbon dioxide emissions it produced amounted to 48,000 kgs annually, a significant contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Now we have a solar electricity system that provides electricity to all departments, thanks to UNDP Small Grants Programme that provided us with 75m/-for the project. We have stopped using the diesel generator and staffs on night duty don’t have to carry kerosene lamps in the wards,” explains Sr. Dr Virginia Mayala who is the Doctor In-charge of the Health Centre.

Besides contributing to global emissions reduction, the Health Centre has also provides quality services. “We have greatly improved our services since the installation of solar electricity. For example the number of pregnant women who have been attended to has gone up from 135 in 2013 to201 in 2018.

Immunisation services have also improved, with 574 children being vaccinated in 2018, up from 217 before installation of the solar electricity systems,” explains Sister. Dr Virginia Mayala, “This is the first port of call for almost all pregnant women in the community around us,” she adds.

The Health Centre located about 60 kms from Ifakara, serves a community of about 3,000 people but has capacity to admit 30 patients in situations when there are disease outbreaks. Likewise its outpatient department serves about 30 people every day but the number sometimes increases to70.

The facility also employs 35 people. Access to clean energy is still a challenge in Tanzania. It is estimated that around 70 percent of the population relies on biomass energy (charcoal and firewood), for cooking both of which have health implications.

Given these circumstances, UNDP in Tanzania works with other stakeholders to provide access to energy for people in underserved areas. The focus is on unlocking the natural renewable energy potential in order to achieve sustainable energy for all in line with the UN declaration.

The UN Agency has thus helped Tanzania to shift towards the use of renewable energy, albeit slowly, in order to address energy poverty, raise the quality of lives of the poor and make the country attain sustainable development goals.

KOMBO Kombo is remembering his wife who died ...

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Author: Correspondent DEODATUS MFUGALE

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