Improving Health Services with Solar Energy

Improving Health Services with Solar Energy

Jan 31, 2020 Stories by Iloilo Code

In January 2014, just two months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Panay island, Iloilo CODE-NGOs conducted municipal consultations in order to identify barangay health stations that needed assistance and determine what appropriate facility can be provided by the project for the towns of Carles, Concepcion and Estancia.

These towns are catergorized as Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) and majority of its island barangays are without power connections making communications and health service delivery difficult to carry out.

Iloilo CODE-NGOs recognized that delivery of health services in times of disasters is crucial for the community in order to prevent the onset of outbreaks and attend the health needs of the people. During Typhoon Yolanda, barangay health centers also served as evacuation centers for members in the community. Some health centers was able to accommodate around 15 families.

Turn-over of Solar Lighting and Ventilation Units for Health Centers to LGUs in Northern Iloilo
These barangay health facilities are operated by a midwife and trained barangay health workers and acts a frontline health service the local government making available pre-natal or post-natal services, check-up and immunization for children and providing medicine for minor illness such as stomach ache, cough, colds and fever.

As a result of municipal consultations, Iloilo CODE-NGOs was able to determine needed facilities and equipment for barangay health centers. The project with Christian Aid-UK was able to turn-over solar powered lighting and ventilation system to 13 off-grid barangays in three municipalities.

The set is composes of 100-watts solar panel, solar electric fan, 150AH battery, 12 volts 15-watts LED spot light, 12 volts 15-watts LED light bulb and solar box with charge controller and a USB port for cellphone charging.

The system was installed at the barangay health centers and the supplier of the equipment likewise conducted orientation seminar for those assigned to operate the facility.

In February and March 2015, the project was able to turn over the facility and equipment to its beneficiaries with a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding and turn-over ceremony attended by local and barangay officials in the municipality together with health workers, volunteers and members of the board of trustees of Iloilo CODE-NGOs.

Two months after the turn-over, Iloilo CODE-NGOs revisited the beneficiaries to gather feedback on the impact of the project in Barangays Talingting, Carles; Salvacion, Concepcion and Bayas in Estancia.

Salvacion, Concepcion

According to the young midwife, Jeana Luntao, “The solar lighting and ventilation system in the barangay health station provided lighting which is needed especially for emergencies at night.”

“The families residing neat the health station also benefited from the light because it can reach even inside their houses so they have also saved on the cost of buying kerosene for their lighting needs at home,” added Luntao.

The lighting provided by the health station also made the residents feel safe and secured to walk outside their houses at night to get water from the nearby water well. The solar system also offered comfort for the patients and health workers during consultations and immunizations and helped thereby improving service delivery by the barangay health workers.

In addition, the solar system is used for charging of barangay radio handsets which they are using for communications and also charging of additional electric fans through an inverter.

Charging Radio Handsets

Luntao recalled that there was one instance in 2012 where they attended to a delivery of a baby at night with the use of a flashlight. “it was very difficult,” she added.

“Now I can say that we are ready for any future emergencies in the barangay. The solar lighting and ventilation system is very helpful for us workers in serving the needs of our constituents. Our people have become comfortable especially the children who used to cry while waiting for their turn because the condition was very hot at the health station before,” said Luntao.

“I don’t have to bring my work at home anymore because the working atmosphere at the health station had improved because of the solar facilities and equipment provided by the project,” she concluded.

Bayas, Estancia

The solar ventilation equipment proved useful. The lighting served as street light and also provided lighting for the barangay chapel.

“We feel safer and security has improved especially at night. Before it was dark at night and we can’t see what’s going on in our vicinity,” said Fe Pesidas, a resident staying near the health station.

“The solar light also helped me saved on cost because the light can reach my home. I used to spend an average of Php 400.00 monthly by connecting to the generator which operates until 10:00 in the evening. On top of that, I usually spend Php 10.00 per day to buy kerosene for our lighting needs beyond 10:00 in the evening,” added Pesidas.

“We used to hold consultations and immunizations outside the health center because it was hot inside. Now, we can perform our duty inside the health center because we are comfortable. There are instances that we attend work at the health center despite that it is no longer our scheduled duty because work has become easy for us and we were inspired to work better because we now have the facilities,” said Jasmine Aricaya, a 57-year-old barangay health worker.

Aricaya who has been serving as health worker for the past 32 years added that the solar equipment had greatly improved the quality of service they render to their constituents.

Talingting, Carles

Barangay Talingting is one of the hilly barangays in Calagnaan island in Carles which is about 30 minutes from Estancia Port by boat.

The barangay has a multi-purpose hall located in the barangay proper which serves as health center, meeting hall, evacuation center, safe place for equipment and place to accommodate visitors of the barangay. The barangay midwife reports for duty every second week of the month or only once a month for pre-natal and post-natal check-ups, consultations and children’s immunization.

The multi-purpose hall is usually full of people needing health assistance and services during the day. There are around more that 50 patients that come making the place crowded and very hot.

Most of the patients stay outside while waiting for their turn. The situation has added stress to the patients especially those coming from sitios that are far from the multi-purpose hall. Children are always crying due to the heat. At night, visitors are using candles to light the room.

The solar lighting and ventilation system installed in the multi-purpose hall of the barangay improved the situation and provided comfort for the patients and health workers during monthly check-ups and consultations. The patients can now stay inside the hall while waiting for their turns. The light can now be used by the visitors staying the multi-purpose hall at night. The light also reaches the homes near the hall which benefited families within the vicinity.

“I feel secured because our surroundings are well-lighted. I no longer need to light my kerosene lamps while I sleep at night. This also brought savings to our family,” said Jenny Arinaza, a 27-year-old pregnant mother living near the multi-purpose hall.

Roberta Piccuro who is a barangay health worker for 20 years expressed that “the situation every month really tested our patience as we serve the community. We got a lot of complaints about the heat and the place being crowded. Now the mothers can smile and be relax because their children no longer cry by being uncomfortable. It also allowed me to improve my performance at work because I can stay at the center longer than we used to.”

Solar energy is a clean and safe source of electricity. At first, the communities that we served were hesitant to try this new technology with the perception that it is very expensive and difficult to operate and maintain. But with education and proper training, the people gradually appreciated this new technology and eventually they became more interested to use solar energy even in their homes and in their livelihood activities.

Iloilo CODE-NGOs continues to promote solar energy to the communities in Northern Iloilo especially at the off-grid areas and those in the small islands. The local governments that Iloilo CODE-NGOs worked with also found the use of solar technology practical and useful and has started to adopt climate-smart and environmentally-friendly technologies. Barangay captains sign the Memorandum of Understanding signifying their acknowledgement of the responsibilities in the use and maintenance of the Solar Lighting and Ventilation Systems. (By Faye Joy Pabiona)

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