For two years, the Dakwa Primary Health Center had no light, but how are they able to celebrate two years of uninterrupted power supply right here in Nigeria? The solution was not far fetched, neither was it sorted by a politician nor the government at any level.
“For two years, we ran this Primary Health Center without light.” The middle aged woman said. “We used to go to a nearby community called Juwah, to store our vaccines, then we would close the the PHC even before 4pm because people were not coming at all even though we tried and even carried out ‘health evangelisms’ to homes in the community”.
These were the words of Mrs Martha Dikko who is the Community Health Extension Worker-CHEW in charge of the Primary Health community– PHC situated in Dakwa Community, off Deidei-Zuba Express way under the Abuja Municipal Area Council, Abuja.
During a visit by the Energy Audit/Experience team for PHCs, these and more were discovered.
The Dakwa PHC does not have a designated nurse but Mrs Dikko currently works with a junior CHEW and two volunteers who worked shifts during the day and most recently at night. Established in 2014, The Dakwa PHC is still not connected to the national grid and this total black out was the case for the first 2 years of its existence. This main reason made patients go far away when ever they had health challenges and could afford it. The few that came in those days were helpless, without monies to go to hospitals far away from the community.
Mrs Dikko said, “the PHC which is responsible for four communities including Gofina, Kokoife, Dakwa and Sarki, had no energy source or water and had to depend on the use of lamps during deliveries, while buying water from mai-ruwa who in turn bought from boreholes.”
But their story changed in the last 2 years.
In April 2016 as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, VAYA Energy designed, provided and installed a 12 panel solar powered system strictly for the Dakwa PHC.
For a community that is totally off grid with no access to electricity whatsoever, it was a miracle commissioned by the then Chairman of AMAC Hon. Micah Jiba.
The matron of the center also noted that within two years of the installation, the PHC has experienced no single power outage, and the patronage has increased from zero to an average of 100 patients a month.
Primary Healthcare Centers are like mini dispensaries, most run without direct contact with a medical doctor or nurse. With Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) as staff and heads of these healthcare centers, day to day running of PHCs range from rounds of immunization to basic first aid concerns. In many cases, these healthcare centres eventually handle seemingly bigger health issues like child deliveries and severe cases of dehydration and fever. Mrs Dikko affirms that 80% of cases at the Dakwa PHC range from fever, to delivery and child birth.
Many of these centers found in every part of the country run on very low or no budget. And so even though they are not meant to charge fees, they are left without an option of charging patients. In most cases, the designated centers are the only contact to health care many people in the communities have and can afford, especially in semi urban and remote areas. Dakwa itself being in AMAC, revealed the remoteness of many of these centers, as it is nothing less than 30 minutes from the nearest hospital .
The Dakwa community though surrounded by semi urbanization with all its characteristics including tarred roads, pipe-borne water, and most importantly, electric poles and transformers,leaves Dakwa like an island of civilization smack-dab in the middle of functional contemporary amenities.
Health workers of the PHC had to rely on kerosene lanterns to function in the evening, spending reasonable amounts of the meagre income made by the PHC through payments for vaccines, drugs and delivery. Vaccines for immunization like PCG, OPD, Penta, had to be refrigerated in a hospital minutes away from the PHC, to be retrieved when needed.
According to Mrs Martha Dikko, the matron in charge of the PHC, The solar powered energy was the best thing to have happened to them as VAYA also presented a fridge to store the vaccines, fans and light powering the centre 24 hours a day. Even though the center closes at the end of the day, due to lack of staff, a junior CHEW lives in the compound and can now be called up in the case of emergency.
The solar powered panel has batteries that conserve energy and there has not been a need for generators.
Health, a very important but seemingly underrated sector in Nigeria, has many ways to improve Nigeria in entirety. Without electricity, a hospital cannot run smoothly due to the electrical automation of most essential hospital machines , preservation of drugs and administration of treatment. The lack of electricity thereof is one of the major setbacks most hospitals and healthcare centers face as Mrs Dikko has narrated. But VAYA Energy did it the solar way.
The change that Solar Energy has brought to the entire community of Dakwa through the PHC can only be defined as drastic and this must happen in many other PHCs for an effective mass health care system.
One thing the visit to Dakwa revealed was that constant electricity is a great asset to any PHC, solving a cross section of problems. Mrs Dikko applauded the efforts of VAYA energy and commended them, saying whenever the installation encounters a low current, the team came in to help fix it.
VAYA energy has in turn outlined her objectives saying they aim to provide PHCs with electricity to power critical devices, educate staff and surrounding community on the use of solar power system.