Where it all started...
Six years ago, Kathryn Hall visited Sulayman Junkung General Hospital, one of just five tertiary care hospitals in The Gambia. Anchoring the town of Bwiam, SJGH sees over 20,000 patients every year (that’s a lot!) and has a catchment area of over 100,000 Gambians (that’s kind of a big deal). When Kathryn visited in 2006, SJGH relied on three decidedly unreliable generators, which the hospital could only afford to run for 8-10 hours a day, if the generators would run at all. They saved most of these hours for after dark because the staff and patients desperately needed the lights. The remaining 1-3 hours of electricity were used during the day, when the hospital was busiest. Without constant electricity, the hospital couldn’t safely store medications or provide oxygen and incubators to infants. And, SJGH needed electricity to run the water pump—when the generators broke, sometimes for weeks on end, the hospital had no water!
But today, thanks to the hard work of the people at SJGH and your support, the hospital has a sustainable source of energy. With solar panels and a battery storage system, SJGH can give its patients the care they deserve. But don’t just take our word for it—hear it straight from the staff:
"A lab without light is not a lab. Electricity is necessary to run tests. When the lights went out, people whose diseases needed a test to confirm like malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis had to wait to get treatment. Twenty-four hour electricity is also needed to keep the donated blood in the refrigerator cold and usable. The new water system gives us more water, and we no longer have to worry about water when the generator breaks. Our tests require water, and we need it to keep the lab clean. Our new water distiller now has both the water and electricity needed to purify water to run tests."
Alhajie B Jarju - Lab
"In the surgical ward we use the oxygen concentrator for patients who cannot breathe on their own. We need light to use the oxygen concentrator of the patients must be referred to RVTH. Sometimes the patients cannot afford to go, or sometimes they are too sick to make the journey. With electricity we can save the patients here. Before the solar panels went in, sometimes the generator would break down for one or two weeks, and we wouldn't have lights. We had to use candles, and it made our job difficult. Now with the solar we always have light. We are much safer and happier now."
Mari T Gomez - Surgical Ward
"In the freezer we keep drugs like the anti rabies, anti venom, human insulin and vaccines. Other drugs that don't need to be refrigerated need to be ventilated and kept in a cool dry area. You cannot maintain the medications without electricity to run the refrigerator and air conditioning. The light allows us to keep our expensive and essential drugs in good condition."
Momodou S. Jallow - Store
"The hospital keeps its records on computers in the record room. The data is essential to the hospital. It allows them to track drug usage. It also allows the hospital to receive help from donors. The data allows people to gauge where help is needed in the hospital and apply for grants. The records also alert us to disease patterns. If we see an unusual number of cases in an area, we can alert people to sensitize the community and stop the outbreak. Without light we couldn't run the computers and we wouldn't be able to gather the data."
Adrissa - Records
The staff of SJGH is thrilled to be able to operate more effectively with upgraded water and electrical systems. The hospital's credibility has increased, leading to a steady influx of more patients. Yet, as much as the patients and the staff have benefited from the change, so has the Bwiam community at large. They are proud to have such an installation in their village, and often, children will sit behind the hospital fence to look at the panels as they track the sun. The project has attracted enough attention that a tour of The Gambia by the president of Burundi included a visit to the solar panels. Plus, the Gambian government has recognized SJGH as a successful model to replicate in other parts of the country.
As in any project, we’re always working to improve. Since 2006, the hospital has grown considerably (a good thing!); but that also means electrical demands have increased. The solar panels we provided have given the hospital more electricity, but they still need their generators for part of the day. We have initiated a conservation campaign at the hospital to use the solar energy as efficiently as possible. Our hope is that the Gambian government will provide an extension to the system to make it truly 24/7.Assessment: Solar is a viable, cost effective solution for SJGH. GamSolar, the leading solar panel contractor in The Gambia, performed an assessment of the power requirements of the hospital and determined that 108 solar panels, 90 for electricity and 18 for running water, were required to provide the hospital with power. Six tracking units (these will make the panels move with the sun) will make this system even more efficient.
Under the Hood
GamSolar, the leading solar panel contractor in The Gambia, performed an assessment of the power requirements of the hospital and determined that 108 solar panels, 90 for electricity and 18 for running water, were required to provide the hospital with power. Six tracking units (these will make the panels move with the sun) will make this system even more efficient.
- Total Cost: ~$300,000
- Contractor: GamSolar Ltd, a solar energy firm based in The Gambia
- I: WATER SYSTEM - Install 18 solar panels and a water pump
- II. SITE IMPROVEMENTS - Upgrade the electrical distribution system and replace old bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs
- III. RELIABLE ELECTRICITY - Install 90 additional solar panels and 6 tracking units
- January 2008 - Phase I Complete
- January 2008 - Phase II Complete
- August 2008 - Groundbreaking for Phase III
- March 2009 - Phase III Complete
- March 11, 2009 - Official handing over of the solar energy system to the hospital