As the world slowed down and adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19, Nepalis living in remote areas with no access to the national electric grid faced additional challenges. Limited access to basic health care, clinics with no electricity and long walks to the nearest grid-tied hospital made it even harder for people to get medical care. The need for reliable electricity in rural health clinics became even more evident.
When COVID-19 began, GRID worked with experts to develop COVID-19 protocols to keep GRID beneficiaries, staff and partners safe. Working in remote areas with no power was already difficult and COVID-19 created some additional challenges. GRID staff in Nepal had to obtain special permission from the Nepali government to travel outside of Kathmandu during one of the lockdown periods. Flights were not in operation at that time so GRID staff and partner Gham Power traveled by vehicle for 36 hours to Jumla with solar equipment. GRID could not work with volunteers or job trainees during the installation and direct contact with clinic staff was minimal.
Despite the challenges, in September 2020 GRID and partner Gham Power installed a 5.9kW off-grid solar system at the Pandu Gupha Health Post and Birthing Center located in the village of Pandu Gupha in the remote Kanakasundari Rural Municipality of Nepal’s Jumla District. The health post serves more than 10,000 residents from surrounding communities and is equipped with a full staff and a host of electric medical devices and diagnostic equipment.
The solar system provides the facility with the ability to generate its own electricity for years to come. With access to clean, reliable electricity staff can now power quality lighting and fully utilize their medical and diagnostic equipment, vaccine refrigeration, X-ray machine, peri light, vacuum pump, autoclave, and incubators for newborn care. Now, the health post can provide the community with 24-hour quality medical services for common diseases, physical injuries, and maternal and child healthcare.
“It’s exciting to see that the COVID-19 vaccine is available at the health post because of the solar system we installed.” says Khadak Rokaya, GRID Nepal Program Coordinator.
In February 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nepal from India but vaccine distribution to the most vulnerable people has long been a challenge for many developing countries. Since the Pandu Gupha health post has solar electricity, it became a central location for the distribution of 2,100 COVID-19 vaccines to the surrounding area beginning in March 2021.
Just six months after the solar system was installed, the Pandu Gupha Health Post staff informed GRID of the following impacts:
- In the last six months, 55 babies were delivered at the clinic. Temperatures are below freezing in Jumla in the winter and reliable electricity helps power infant warming beds which are critical to save newborn lives. Before the solar system was installed, women coming to the health post to give birth or for check ups with their babies had to bring firewood with them for heat.
- The clinic no longer buys diesel fuel to power a generator. Solar has offset the use of 10-15 liters of diesel per month saving the clinic NRs 3,500 ($30) every month.
- Since the solar installation six months ago, eight patients have received X-rays, a service that was not available before solar was installed. Solar allowed these patients to get X-rays locally instead of traveling 5-6 hours by bus to KAHS hospital in Jumla Bazar.
- Staff can heat water using an electric kettle, reducing air pollution from burnable fuels and making it easier for staff and patients to wash hands and sterilize equipment when the temperature is below freezing outside.
- The health post now powers a refrigerator which is being used to store COVID-19 vaccines for the Pandu Gupha Health Post and for neighboring health facilities.
- Solar powers the lab and electric lighting makes it easier for staff to deliver babies, especially at night.
“We are thrilled to see the direct impact that solar electricity has had on the health post during the COVID-19 pandemic.” says Jenean Smith, Senior Director of International Programs at GRID.
The health post looks forward to serving more patients and offering more services since they can now rely on the solar system to provide electricity. The money saved from purchasing diesel directly supports the health post and families save time and money by obtaining medical services locally.
- Modules: 18-330Wp Trina Solar PV modules
- Inverter: One Victron Quattro 10KVA/48V inverter
- Batteries: 16 200 Ah Uni Solar Tubular deep-cycle batteires
- Racking: Locally fabricated roof-mounted aluminium angle bars
Total Project Cost: $23,550
We are grateful for the financial support from EKO Energy which made this project possible.
You can see photos from this project here.
To make a donation to GRID Alternatives in support of our work in Nepal please click here.