Nearly 1 bln people served globally by healthcare facilities without reliable electricity

Nearly 1 bln people served globally by healthcare facilities without reliable electricity

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 (APP): Close to 1 billion people in poor countries are served by healthcare facilities with unreliable electricity supply or with no electricity access at all, according to a new UN-backed report.

The study presents the latest data on electrification of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries, and projects investments required to achieve adequate and reliable power.

It was published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the Internationa Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll).

In South Asia and sub-Saharan African countries, more than 1 in 10 health facilities lack any electricity access whatsoever, the report finds, while power is unreliable for a full half of facilities in sub-Saharan Africa

“Electricity access in healthcare facilities can make the difference between life and death,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO interim Assistant Director-General for Healthier Populations, said in a statement.

“Investing in reliable, clean and sustainable energy for health-care facilities is not only crucial to pandemic preparedness, it’s also much needed to achieve universal health coverage, as well as increasing climate resilience and adaptation.”

Access to electricity is critical for providing people with quality healthcare, from delivering babies to managing emergencies like heart attacks, or ensuring children receive lifesaving vaccines.

Electricity is required to power the most basic devices – lighting, communications equipment and refrigeration, for example, or those that measure vital signs like heartbeat and blood pressure. It is also crucial for both routine and emergency procedures.

Despite recent progress, approximately one billion people are served by healthcare facilities without reliable electricity supply, or none at all – a number that is nearly as large as the entire populations of the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Germany combined.

There also stark disparities in access within countries themselves. Primary healthcare centres and rural facilities are considerably less likely to have electricity access than hospitals and facilities in urban areas, according to the report.

The report stressed that electrification of healthcare facilities “must be considered an utmost development priority”.

A World Bank needs analysis, included in the report, showed that almost two-thirds of healthcare facilities in low and middle-income countries require some form of urgent intervention, such as a new electricity connection or backup power supply.

Nearly $5 billion is urgently needed to bring them to a minimal standard of electrification.

The authors said decentralized sustainable energy solutions are available which would have a huge impact on health delivery, citing the example of solar photovoltaic systems which convert sunlight into electricity.

Such solutions are cost-effective, clean and rapidly deployable on-site, meaning there is no need to wait for the arrival of the central energy grid.

Healthcare systems and facilities are increasingly affected by the impacts of the climate emergency, the authors added.

Therefore, making them more resilient calls for building facilities and services that can meet the challenges of climate change while improving environmental sustainability.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed data from China on its COVID-19 surge, according to a statement issued following a conversation on Saturday between Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Minister Ma Xiaowei, Director of the country’s National Health Commission.

“WHO appreciates this meeting, as well as the public release of information on the overall situation,” the UN agency said.

Chinese officials have provided information to WHO, and in a press conference, on topics that include outpatient clinics, hospitalizations, patients requiring emergency treatment and critical care, and COVID-19 related hospital deaths.

WHO is analyzing the data, which covers the period from early December 2022 to 12 January 2023, recalling that it has been requesting China to share detailed information.

The current intense COVID-19 surge has been caused by known Omicron subvariants, according to the data. It is mainly affecting older people and those with underlying health conditions, similar to waves of infections experienced by other countries.

“The reported data indicate a decline in case numbers, hospitalizations, and those requiring critical care. WHO has requested a more detailed breakdown of data by province over time,” said the statement.

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