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Liberia: Red Cross Installs More Solar Panels at Primary Rural Healthcare Facilities

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Margibi County –  Surveillance officer Leroy Maximore has raised concern over limited or no access to electricity at most health facilities in rural Liberia in the face of medical emergency or delivering at night.

This, according to Maximore, has created negative effects such as poor treatment or services at these facilities. He said the situation has resulted in a number of maternal and neonatal deaths that could have been prevented.  

“Since the beginning of 2019, Margibi County has had 15 maternal deaths and 50 neonatal deaths as a result of several factors including lack of electricity and poor referral, among others”, said Maximore, who is the County Surveillance officer.  

Speaking in Margibi County Tuesday, October 8, when the Liberia Red Cross completed the installation of solar light at some health facilities in the county, he name electricity at health facility as an important tool for health delivery and should not be ignored. 

“One of our key challenges is lightening at our health facilities especially in the rural areas. Our staffs including midwives and nurses use their phone or flashlight to conduct deliveries and response to other maternal health cases and emergencies at night,” Mr. Maximore asserted.  

Mr. Maximore’s assertion also confirmed a recent assessment by the Red Cross, which revealed the account of health practitioners that midwives are using cell phones and flashlights to deliver pregnant women, especially in some remote health facilities.  

A lot of health centers and health posts are in need of electricity to be more effective and efficient at night. 

According to him, the lack of electricity had made it challenging for some health centers to detect mechanisms for preventing infectious diseases. 

“Some of the facilities traditionally relied upon expensive and difficult to maintain diesel generators. But unfortunately, the cost is very high and so they are often not used; and when they are, it’s common that they breakdown early on due to poor maintenance and high running costs. Even at the County referral hospitals, power is ration,” Maximore stressed.

He stated that most of the rural healthcare centers in his area are still far from being connected to the electrical grid. He then lauded the Red Cross for the provision of electricity to other health centers in Margibi County.

The Liberia National Red Cross Society with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the IFRC in 2017 launched a project titled: Strengthening Communities Resilience through Epidemic Preparedness (SCREP). 

Red Cross said the provision of solar power to promote safe institutional delivery at health facilities is one of the high priorities under this project.  

Ten primary Healthcare facilities in Margibi, Bomi, and Montserrado have benefited from the new solar panel installation to ensure that they continue meeting critical health needs, even at night. 

In addition, the delivery rooms of CH Rennie Hospital in Margibi and the Liberia Government hospital in Bomi Counties have received solar lights to substitute power breakdowns. 

“This Yeaman Community clinic has been in complete darkness. But today we are happy to say thank you to the Red Cross and its partners for this worthy intervention.  This support will not only provide light but it will help us curtail the number of neonatal deaths”, the Margibi County Surveillance officer added.  

It is obvious that with the scarcity of electricity and unreliable lightening, midwives are forced to deliver babies in the dark. 

”It gives us a hard time when we cannot find a battery for the flashlight and our phones are off. We reuse the old batteries and the light cannot be brighter to allow us to focus on both the mother and the baby.  This has been challenging but thankfully, the Liberian Red Cross has addressed this crucial need,” said Melemu K. Wonton, a Registered Midwife. 

At the same time, Red Cross said it recognized the pressing need for a safe and sustainable energy solution and has also installed solar light at four health Facilities including the County Health center in Bomi. 

“We want to continue the installation of solar panels for lightening at rural health centers and it can be possible and achievable only through collective efforts and increasing support from everyone”, the Liberian Red Cross Acting Secretary-General Ambullai Perry said. 

The installation of these solar lights by the LNRCS will help build stronger and more resilient health facilities that will be more effective and efficient during the day and even at night in responding to emergency cases.  

“We are proud to coordinate this effort with our partner the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the IFRC to provide solar lights to rural health facilities as a mean of improving healthcare delivery”, Mr. Perry pointed out.    

As part of the project activities, the LNRCS has also distributed 12,320 bottles of water guard, cleaning up tools, among others.

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