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Electricity access in healthcare facilities

The purpose of this full-time consultancy is to take stock and analyse existing data with regards to electricity access in healthcare facilities in low-income countries, and through this activity also contribute to the preparation of a ‘Global Assessment of Electricity in Healthcare Facilities’ report.

The consultant will support the health and energy team within the Air Quality and Health (AQH) Unit of the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Health. The activity is part of WHO’s work as Secretariat of the Global Health and Energy Platform of Action.

Background

Achieving universal health coverage, a key element of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), means ensuring that everyone has access to quality healthcare yet not enough attention is given to energy’s role in healthcare. Energy is critical for the delivery of health services. When health facilities have sufficient and reliable electricity, women can more safely give birth at night and during emergencies such as COVID- 19, medical equipment can be powered and better sterilized and clinics can preserve life-saving vaccines for new-borns, children and adults.

Yet, despite energy’s importance to delivering health services, it is estimated that tens of thousands of health centers across low- and middle-income countries are not connected to the grid and lack electricity. A similar number of hospitals suffer from frequent and debilitating blackouts. In parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only 28% of health facilities are estimated to have access to reliable electricity.  This puts patients at risk and makes the jobs of healthcare workers all the more challenging. This acute shortage of electricity access can be particularly detrimental in emergencies such as COVID-19 when reliable electricity is the need of the hour to save lives.

The task of increasing access to reliable and modern energy in health facilities faces a number of barriers. For example, in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, grid extension cannot keep up with population growth and the power demands that come with it. Additionally, many health facilities and the communities they serve are often very remote and characterized by poor surrounding infrastructure and low energy demand, making them unattractive to traditional energy service providers (e.g. utilities). Indeed, the business-as-usual approach to electrification is proving costly, unreliable and too slow.  As a result, these facilities sometimes resort to the use of diesel systems, which not only are polluting, but also not affordable, while diesel supply is often unreliable, especially in rural areas, resulting in a sporadic service.

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