Solar power installed in Haitian health centres

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Twelve health centres in Haiti now have safe and reliable power supplies, after solar energy systems were installed under a scheme to develop the country’s southwest region.

​Health centres in the earthquake-affected country typically have little access to electricity, using generators for a few hours of power each day, and relying on candles and kerosene lamps at night.

The new energy systems reduce the risk of fires and provide permanent access to electricity, which is extremely important for patient care as well as the cold storage of vaccines.

The project is a component of the Côte Sud Initiative, which is working to achieve long-term recovery and sustainable development in ten communes within Haiti’s southwest region.

The solar-power component was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and was designed and implemented by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) with logistical support from UNOPS on behalf the Côte Sud Initiative, and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Bob Freling, SELF’s Executive Director said: "A doctor cannot be expected to perform lifesaving surgeries at night without lights or power for medical equipment. Now, through the provision of reliable solar power, doctors can treat patients at night, diagnose patients any time, and provide vaccines to patients in need – all while saving money by decreasing or eliminating the need for diesel fuel."

The Secretary of State for Energy, René Jean-Jumeau, said: "Energy is the engine that drives all other sectors of the country towards sustainable development, and health services are a priority."

UNOPS managed the logistics for the transportation of technical staff and material to a health centre on Île-à-Vache, which serves 15,000 people and is the last of 12 such centres to receive the new solar panels. A MINUSTAH helicopter provided the transport to the health centre.

The Mayor of Île-à-Vache, Jean-Yves Amazan, said: "This solar power system will not only improve the work of the health centre’s staff, but it will also benefit the cholera treatment centre which is located next door."

Almost 40 kilowatts of electricity will be produced by the installations across the 12 sites. The systems can resist winds of 180 kilometres an hour and are made of anti-corrosive materials. They can last 20 years if the batteries are replaced every five years.

IDB Regional Energy Specialist Lumas Kendrick, said: "This project is an important part of IDB’s partnership with the Haitian Government to expand renewable energy use for rural electrification throughout Haiti."

To ensure local ownership and sustainability, SELF arranged maintenance training for health centre staff. Over the next two years it will maintain the systems, after which national authorities will take over.

The Côte Sud Initiative is supported by UNOPS and a range of partners that include the Government of Haiti, the Government of Norway, the United Nations Environment Programme, Catholic Relief Services, and four community-based organizations, among others. At least 205,000 Haitians are benefitting from the Côte Sud Initiative’s activities which include environment, tourism, energy, agriculture and fishery.

Alongside Île-à-Vache, other locations that received the new solar energy systems include Côte-de-Fer, Chantal, Saint-Jean-du-Sud, Roche-à-Bateau, Damassin, Coteaux, Port-à-Piment, Randel, Chardonnières, Les Anglais and Tiburon.