Across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), approximately 60% of healthcare facilities are without electricity access. Without such access, healthcare providers face difficult and all-too-often dangerous challenges. Nurses spend hours on the back of a motorbike to pick up and then re-deliver vaccines from a facility that has a vaccine fridge. A midwife must deliver a newborn at night under shaky cell-phone light or by holding up a kerosene lantern. The lack of electricity restricts the ability of healthcare providers to record and track their patients, often limited to a pen and paper. Without access to clean and reliable electricity, these scenarios are the reality for far too many healthcare workers.
Despite a long-standing and clear need, there is limited data and information about the demand for and impact of healthcare facility electrification on health outcomes. To begin to shed light on the topic, using internal research funds, RTI developed and administered a regionally representative survey of health posts in Senegal. We found that 89.8% of on- and off-grid facilities would like to add additional off-grid electricity.
Although there is substantial demand, barriers such as upfront and recurring costs stand in the way (Figure 1). Simply put, both on- and off-grid health posts in Senegal want additional off-grid electricity but cannot afford to purchase the equipment and keep it in operation. The USAID-funded Power Africa Off-grid Project, which RTI implements, is working to develop private-sector business models that are affordable for healthcare facilities and include appropriate incentives to encourage long-term operation and maintenance of the systems.
Figure 1. What are the major barriers to accessing off-grid electricity?