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Amidst the COVID 19 pandemic which has affected countries across the world, including Malawi, Community Energy Malawi (CEM) and University of Strathclyde (UoS) in Scotland, saw it fit to contribute towards helping different communities cope up. With help from the Scottish Government, the two organizations five 4.2kW solar generation units to support COVID-19 isolation and treatment wards in five health facilities.

The systems have been installed at Chisankhwa Health centre in Chitipa, Atupele Community Hospital in Karonga, St John’s Hospital in Mzuzu City, Mzambazi Community Hospital in Mzimba and Nkhamenya Community Hospital in Kasungu.

According to CEM’s Country Director, Edgar Kapiza Bayani, the systems are designed to provide high quality power to different essential appliances in a typical COVID-19 isolation ward setting including oxygen concentrators and monitors. He added that the systems have been designed in a modern way to ensure safety and sustainability.

“We will be using the Growatt online portal for remote monitoring of the systems. Our engineers at CEM and UoS will be in the loop as far as system performance is concerned,” said Bayani.

He further added that the systems will also work beyond the pandemic since access to energy is a perennial challenge in most parts of Malawi.

“The systems have been designed to be able to take on board more loads emanating from other equally essential wards,” he said.

He added: “In Mzambazi for instance, the health facility can stay for 2 to 3 days without ESCOM power and as such the operations of the whole facility are crippled as their generator is very expensive to run.”

In reaction, Sister Theresa Custom, sister-in-charge at Atupele Community Hospital, said they are grateful for the timely installations which will help in saving the situation.

CEM’s Walusungu Munthali during the installations

“We are very thankful to the Scottish Government for the timely installation of this system. Our facility is located very close to the border with Tanzania and there is so much mobility in this part of the country and as such we do get a lot of cases and admissions when the infection rates go high,” she said.

She added: “Our patients become so delicate and it is essential that power supply is stable and we believe this will solve the power problems we had as a result of the erratic power supply we have been experiencing in the past. As the third wave is fast affecting Malawi, this is timely.”

Sister Theresa Custom

However, some of the challenges that have affected the activity includes: First, the technicians on the ground in the hospitals are not well conversant with Solar PV systems. Second, some of the areas were noted to have network challenges and as such remote monitoring will not be possible to achieve unless coverage is expanded. However, CEM and UoS continue to work with technicians to help them in the work through frequent visits as well as mobile phone communication.

Written by Wonderful Mkhutche