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Solar fridges – strengthening the supply chain system in order to reduce maternal and child mortalit

As part of its work with the President’s Recovery Priorities, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) is focusing on reducing vaccine preventable diseases in Sierra Leone. A President’s Recovery Priorities’ initiative to install solar fridges in PHUs throughout Sierra Leone, will improve cold chain management and help realise the full benefit of immunisation.

In the Agenda for Prosperity, an efficient, well managed procurement and supply chain management system is one of the steps central to health care delivery, and critical for the success of the free health care policy.

WHO figures state that vaccines can reduce vaccine preventable diseases by over 80%. Maintaining the vaccine cold chain (proper vaccine temperatures during storing and handling) is necessary to preserve potency and in the last four months, MOHS has supplied 100 Solar Refrigerators with support from GAVI, UNICEF, World Bank and other partners. These are being installed in Tonkolili, Kenema, Kono, Western Area, Koinadugu and Bombali. The use of off-grid solar power is a cost-efficient energy solution for rural areas not connected to the national grid.

Levuma is a hard to reach village in Kenema. Its Health Centre is one of seven in the district that has received a fridge. The absence of a fridge had been a challenge for both health workers and their patients.

Nurse Aminata Lolley, at Levuma explains the challenging vaccine process before the fridge was installed. “We had to store our vaccines in Kenema which is 17 miles away and schedule immunisation at long intervals to avoid the expense of frequently collecting vaccines from storage points,” she explained.

The installation of the fridge has helped them improve on immunisation coverage, preserve vaccine potency and improve service delivery. Twenty-eight-year old Josephine Jenneh Bockarie, is the mother of five children. She lives at Kwakor village, 14 miles from the Levuma. In the past, she shuttled between her home and the clinic several times before finally getting her children vaccinated, but now she says that the vaccines are readily available each time she takes her children to the health centre.

Administrating the vaccines is Musa Nyama, who explains that the new fridge means that clinic attendance is now regular and there has been a marked improvement in vaccine coverage.

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