Liberia: Red Cross Installs Bill and Melinda Gates Funded Solar Panels at Health Facilities
Montserrado County – Residents of rural Montserrado, Margibi and Bomi Counties have expressed delights over the installation of solar lights at some health facilities by the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS).
The lights were installed with technical support from the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies in Liberia under the Bil and Melinda Gates Support Project.
The public health facilities benefited are in Todee, Caresburg, Artington, Gibi, Mamba Kabba, Dewoin and Kaly. The project is being implemented under the theme, “Strengthening Communities Resilience through Epidemic Preparedness.”
Most of these hard-to-reach communities have little or no access to health care. The nearest health center is about 15 kilometers away.
Some of these communities are in drought prone areas, with acute scarcity of safe drinking water.
Forty-five communities were served with 673 pieces of waste management kits including wheel barrows, shovels, rakes, hoes, and cutlasses while solar lights were installed at 12 health facilities within these counties.
The installation of solar lights and distribution of water guards were carried out in these regions from Wednesday, September 11 to Sunday September 14, 2019.
LNRCS said targeted counties were substantially affected by the 2014 Ebola crisis and continue to be challenged by the detrimental effects of recurring floods, poor access to health leading to low resilience to deal with health emergencies and disasters, combined with high population density.
Assessment by LNRCS shows that the communities have limited access to health and hygiene facilities and have poor mechanisms in place to prevent and/or mitigate potential disease outbreaks as experienced in the case of Ebola outbreak.
Beneficiaries within these counties have lauded Red Cross for also distributing 12,320 bottles of water guards to residents in some areas that are faced with safe drinking water challenge.
Health facilities within these areas have been out of electricity for a long period of time, thus creating difficulties for health practitioners in these areas to attend to medical needs.
In Margibi County, Yarnwullie, Gibi District, women in the area were delighted about the new lighting system in their town, naming it as a boost to health delivery in the area.
Kemah Mulbah and Fatu Gwilly said the absence of light at the Yarnwullie Clinic over the past five years has being challenging for maternal center.
“Women who have given birth at this clinic in the night were at risk and that the nurses used cellphone light as an alternative in the process,” said Kemah.
“At times, some of our friends would not want to come at the clinic for delivery, because they were afraid that there is no light and would prefer staying home to give birth,” Mamie Peters, another female who has given birth at the clinic asserted.
“I give birth in this clinic and the used cell phone light because there was no light at this clinic and I even kick a stone and fell in the clinic yard that night because there was no light outside for me to see, but thank God I delivered safely. I was just praying to God that whole night until I deliver.”
With the installation of a new solar light, the women in the area, who are also beneficiaries expressed confident that health delivery at night will now be properly administered.
Charlotte Francis, Officer-In-Charge of Yarnwullie Clinic in Gibi territory explained how she faced difficulties offering health delivery services to about 30 patients daily.
“Most of these cases are women and children with maternal services amounting to most cases of women. These cases according to her occurred mostly at night and women were sometimes not willing to come to the health facility due to fear,” Francis said.
Apart from health delivery, Charlotte said the clinic also administered service delivery for Malaria and family planning.
However, she said at night, attending to these cases were as well difficult for them due to lack of electricity.
She sees the installation of solar light as a boost to her work and called on residents of the Yarnwullie and other surrounding towns and villages to make use of the health facility.
She said the lights are adequate enough to serve all parts of the clinic and to even provide electricity for other needs like cooling of drugs.
In Bomi County, Binta Momolu and Herrietta Korleh said they were faced with similar delivery fear at the Dewoin Clinic while giving birth due to lack of electricity.
But they expressed satisfaction that lightening the clinic will promote health delivery in that part of Liberia.
“We will tell some of our friends who are not informed about this, so that they cannot be afraid to come and give birth to this clinic. We have seen it for ourselves and we know that there light has come to this place,” Binta stated.
The women, at the same time, lauded LNRC for seeing the need to help rural dwellers improve in health delivery.
The LNRCS says its mission is to provide electricity to rural health facilities to avert maternal and neonatal mortality.
LNRCS Acting Secretary General Ambullai Perry described the entity’s intervention as a measn of complementing government efforts in creating an enabling environment for health practitioners to perform in an effective and efficient health sector.
“We are very grateful to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for this incredible support which makes us proud to complement the effort of government in this endeavor,” Perry averred.
“Liberia is not facing major emergency at the moment but there are pressing humanitarian needs on the grounds that we as Liberian Red Cross cannot compromise. The needs of health facilities demand immediate intervention to save lives”.
Perry recognized that Liberia has many and compelling needs, declaring that resources available to the Liberian Red Cross are ‘extremely inadequate.’
He maintained: “We want more support to build resilient communities. We look forward to increasing support and partnership in the areas of water and sanitation, improved health care at the community level, disaster preparedness and response as well as youth capacity building and gender, social protection and inclusion.”
The Red Cross believes that epidemic and pandemic preparedness starts and ends with communities.
The outbreak of Ebola has demonstrated that without community-driven efforts to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats, government efforts can be delayed and negatively impacted.
“However, communities cannot manage risk alone. They form an integral part of a coordinated and collaborative effort between civil societies, the private sector and government that works best where there are established structures and systems in place, and partnerships and trust have been forged before crisis strikes,” LNRCS Acting Secretary General noted.
In Montserrado County, eight communities in Todee, eight in Artington and seven communities in Caresburg will benefit from the project. Four communities each in Gibi and Mamba Kabba will benefit while five communities in Dewoin and six in Klay will as well benefit from the project, amounting to 42 communities in the three counties.
The project wants to ensure that communities are at the center of epidemic and pandemic preparedness the project is designed to strengthen and expand on existing country capacities at community level to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases threats.
It focuses on community preparedness for epidemic disease outbreak at the county health emergency contingency level, early warning system at the community with community based surveillance approach and community health promotion with demand creation for health and hygiene promotion, environmental sanitation.