UNMISS-funded solar-powered lights save lives at Juba teaching hospital


Nurses, doctors and other staff at Juba Teaching Hospital are no longer afraid when they scurry between different wards, departments and life-saving interventions at night. No longer do they stumble in the dark, fearing snakes, other crawling animals, human predators or thieves, making the most of their invisibility.

Why? Because on Thursday a quick impact solar power project funded by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan was officially handed over to the administration of the main referral hospital in the country. For a mere USD 50,000, a total of 38 solar panels, batteries and metal poles have produced a secure working environment 24 hours a day.

Patients about to deliver babies, or perhaps receive vital injections, can also feel safe. Now they can all, some 700 staffers and 500 bed-ridden alike, see and be seen. Now there is light, even when there is no fuel left for noisy generators, much to the delight of Hayat Khamis and Susan Soro, nurses at the health care facility.

“Before we were sometimes using the light from our mobile phones to insert the canals necessary to give patients drip. Those were very difficult moments,” Ms. Khamis recalls with a shudder.

Her colleague Susan remembers even more serious incidents due to the lack of proper light in the maternity ward.

“We had cases with women who needed to give birth, but with the dark it became very difficult for us nurses to help. Sometimes giving birth without light resulted in deaths,” says Ms. Soro.

The solar-powered lighting system has been nimbly installed and tested at the Juba Teaching Hospital over the last couple of months. The Health Support Organization, a South Sudanese non-governmental organization founded in 2005, has been responsible for the implementation of this so called Quick Impact Project.

“While these [quick impact] projects are relatively small in scale, their impact on individual lives is definitely not small,” said the acting head of the UN Mission’s Juba field office, Malick Ceesay, in a speech delivered on behalf of the UNMISS Deputy Chief and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Alain Noudéhou.

While the additional solar-powered light solves many problems, the most important hospital in the country still faces a number of serious challenges.

“The light is still not quite enough in some operation theatres and wards, and raising our hygienic standards with an efficient sewage system and proper garbage collection is another necessity. These are our most immediate needs,” said Dr. Fredrick Khamis, acting Director General at the Juba Teaching Hospital.

Mr. Ceesay, highlighting the way the solar panel project is in line with the UN Mission’s mandate to protect civilians, expressed optimism about future cooperation with the Teaching Hospital.

“I cannot make any promises about financing water and sanitation projects here, but our partnership will continue, and hopefully we can take it to another level,” he said.

In 2018, the peacekeeping mission is supporting the implementation of a total of 21 quick impact projects across the country, four of which are located in the Central Equatoria region.

The solar-powered lamps at Juba Teaching Hospital are fully automated and thus highly energy-saving. The nifty devices switch on by themselves as darkness sets in, and then spend their days resting, soaking up the reliably robust South Sudanese sun for hours on end.

First Published by Relief Web

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