Man standing next to electricity powering medical services
COVID-19 has reinforced the critical role of electricity in powering medical services.

Reliable Electricity is Critical to a Pandemic Response

By Kristen Madler, Janice M. Laurente

Reliable electricity can mean life or death for a patient. Healthcare facilities need electricity to power lifesaving medical equipment and preserve perishable supplies, such as vaccines. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes are even higher, as more people around the world need treatment and services.

More than 18 million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 as of August 2020, and new cases are rising. Healthcare workers can’t effectively fight COVID without power. And, for that matter, their ability to mitigate and stop deaths from other diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis are also compromised without power. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Global Health Science and Practice, found that there was limited electricity access in health facilities of sub-Saharan Africa. A review of 13 health surveys conducted across sub-Saharan Africa estimated that 26 percent of healthcare facilities have no access to electricity and only 28 percent of healthcare facilities have access to reliable electricity.

Doctors and nurses need reliable light, ventilators, laboratory diagnostic tools, vital sign monitors, and other life-saving devices. Hospitals and clinics need cold storage to maximize the shelf time of vaccines, medicines, testing reagents, and blood products. When the power goes out, all of these tools are taken away from healthcare workers, making their already challenging jobs even harder.

USAID recently released the Powering Health Toolkit, a guide to healthcare facility electrification. Powering Health covers topics such as energy demand analysis, accounting for change in power demand, electrification options, bid documents for energy systems, and health system loads. It helps users conduct an energy audit to understand energy requirements of a health facility to power lights, refrigerators and other equipment. Such audits enable the cost-effective planning, design, and management of energy supply systems. Powering Health also features a Hybrid Optimization Model for Multiple Energy Resources (HOMER) tool to help project managers, engineers, and financiers in the energy industry design electric power systems to evaluate power options and optimize the size and type of the electric power system. These proven resources provide international development experts in the health and energy sectors with best practices for designing and investing in activities that meet the energy needs of health facilities.

As the world navigates its response to the global COVID-19 crisis, the energy and health sectors must work together to quickly deploy electricity solutions that can help save lives. For more information, visit the Powering Health website.

Energy, Health
Strategic Objective
Poverty, Development, Clean Energy, Grid Integration, Health, Infrastructure, Self-Reliance

Kristen Madler

Kristen Madler serves as USAID’s Clean Energy Coordinator where she manages the Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SURE) project and the Energy Utility Partnership Program with the United States Energy Association. SURE is a USAID project that helps partner countries plan, procure, and integrate renewable energy. SURE supports countries on their journey to self-reliance by strengthening strategic energy planning, grid integration, competitive procurement, renewable energy zones, and smart incentives. For more information on SURE, visit the SURE website.

Janice M. Laurente

Janice M. Laurente is a senior communications consultant for Tetra Tech ES, Inc. Previously, she served in leadership positions at USAID, where she managed the global brand, communications activities, marketing plans, media relationships, online presence, and government relations efforts. She has nearly 20 years of experience working in international development, philanthropy, the private sector, and government.

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