In Levuma Community, Kenema District today (11th April 2017), the British High Commissioner, Guy Warrington, joined Vice President, Dr. Victor Foh and the Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry Macauley as the Ministry of Energy (MoE) continued to roll out its UK AID supported Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP), which is bringing electricity to rural communities all over Sierra Leone.
The first stage of the project delivers the President’s Recovery Priorities commitment to provide 24-hour electricity in 50 hard-to-reach community health centres (CHCs) in the districts, by installing solar mini-grids. These harness the energy of the sun to produce the electricity. The system at Levuma is one of four pilots. Three have already been launched at Mambolo and Kukuna in Kambia District and Koinadugu.
The Levuma CHC is a Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEMoNC) centre and the introduction of 24-hour power will transform pregnancy and delivery, according to the matron of Levuma’s CHC: “Imagine delivering a baby a night, or conducting an emergency medical procedure in a clinic without electricity,” she said. “We used the lights from unsterilised mobile phones, and torches to insert IVs into veins, stitch wounds or tears and insert catheters after women had given birth. Of course, this meant that there was an increased chance of infection and complications. Having 24-hour electricity will improve the quality of the service we can offer women, their families and other patients, leading to improved health outcomes.”
UNOPS Technical Team Lead, Ezekiel Musili, said that UNOPS was proud to support the MoE and UK AID in the project, explaining that the work in the CHCs includes rewiring of the health facility, and installing sockets in every room to power water pumps and a fridge for storing vaccines. “This is a solar system. It derives power from the sun and does not require fuel,” he said. “But it does need to be maintained. It belongs to the community and the community will need to ensure it is looked after and not damaged.”
In the next phase of the RREP, the solar power generation facilities installed at the CHCs will be extended to include small mini-grids, so that schools, other government institutions, businesses and households can be powered. These mini-grids will be operated by private operators with commercial interests or local community associations, both ensuring long term sustainability.
In, the final stage, a further 40 mini-grids will be installed. These will be larger and are designed to be installed in communities where household and private sector demand will ensure they can become profitable business ventures. All phases of the RREP will be completed by October 2020, benefitting around 500,000 people. The RREP was conceived by Ambassador Henry Macauley in response to President Ernest Bai Koroma’s commitment to increasing the number of rural communities across Sierra Leone with electricity.
Speaking at the launch he said that the MoE and UNOPS had worked around the clock, with the Office of the Chief of Staff to ensure that the President’s Recovery Initiative would meet its 2017 deadline to provide light to 50 CHCs. “Light is a right and everyone’s business,” he said. “We are in the process of diversifying our energy sector by introducing more renewable energy off-grid solutions. These 50 communities are just the start. By working in partnership with our local communities on the Rural Renewable Energy Project, we can save more lives, provide better services to more pregnant women and ensure our children will be able to study after the sun goes down.”
British High Commissioner, Guy Warrington said, “The UK sees itself as a long-term partner in Sierra Leone’s development. Over the last two years we have committed £240 million to the President’s Recovery Priorities. Energy is central to the development of healthcare, education, employment and entrepreneurship. In rural areas, where it may be some time before the grid arrives, off grid solar solutions provide a readily available solution and we are proud to say that Sierra Leone is one of our leading partners in the drive to bring renewable energy to Africa.”
The Vice President, Dr. Victor Foh was the keynote speaker at the launch. He said: “By increasing access to energy throughout the country, we can increase the pace of our nation’s development. Energy is and remains a priority of the government. Today’s launch represents improved maternal and child health, improved education, improved employment opportunities and the government’s commitment to the sustainable economic development of Sierra Leone.”
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