By Elizabeth Wilder
Joy may not be the first word that springs to mind when Westerners think about electrical power, but gorudubu (“joy” in the Bariba language) describes the feelings of the 40,000 adults and children benefiting from a new solar energy project in the rural and largely off-grid Kalalé District of Benin in West Africa. Over 5,000 families will achieve better health, thanks to an installation completed by the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF).
“As a society, we don’t often think about lack of electricity as an underlying cause of health disparities,” says Robert Freling, SELF’s executive director. “You can provide all the vaccines in the world, but if a clinic doesn’t have the ability to refrigerate them, it doesn’t matter. Electricity is a prerequisite for healthy communities.”
The United Nations has seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, including “good health and wellbeing” (SDG 3) and “achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water” (SDG 6). In Benin, the lack of both energy and clean water means that vaccine-preventable waterborne diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, polio and typhoid, are hard to fight. No electricity means no refrigeration; no refrigeration means limited vaccine storage. Limited vaccines result in these avoidable illnesses (plus dysentery), which remain a leading cause of death in Benin.
A recently completed solar energy project will disrupt this cycle and improve the health of the 40,000 people living in Kalalé District, which is approximately 325 miles (or a nine-hour drive) north of the capital, Porto-Novo. The SELF project had two solar energy components: Solar-driven pumps to fill 24 newly-constructed clean water reservoirs, and solar powered vaccine refrigerators in five area health clinics.
Read more in Energies Magazine.
SELF is a global leader in the fight against energy poverty. Since 1990, we’ve pioneered unique applications for solar energy, powering progress on food security, health care, education, gender equity, and more.
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