Using solar power to protect life-saving vaccines for children of Fiji: Cheaper environmentally friendly solar refrigerators for Fiji

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 08 May 2017 View Original

SUVA, 8 May 2017 – No electricity, no problem. Seventy-four solar refrigerators will be distributed to more than 100 health centers in Cyclone Winston affected areas in Fiji, to ensure life-saving vaccines or medicines stay effective even without electricity.

Following the category five cyclone in February 2016 which caused widespread damage to health and community infrastructure and disrupted delivery and access to public health services, UNICEF through funding from the Australian government, procured the refrigerators as well as 17 solar power packs specifically customized for Fiji.

As such the Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon. Rosy Akbar launched the solar fridges at Nayavu-i-Ra Sub Divisional Office in Ra last Friday. Minister Akbar described the launch as an integral component to the revival of national immunization supply chain in Fiji through solarization of healthcare facilities.

“Ensuring the availability and efficiency of the cold chain infrastructure is a critical public health priority to protect new-born and infants from vaccine preventable diseases. It is imperative to the safety, efficiency and availability of vaccines, and the continuity of the immunization programme throughout Fiji,” she said.

“For recovery and strengthening of cold chain system in Fiji, 74 solar direct drive vaccine refrigerators and 32 refrigerators (electrical) were procured by UNICEF through DFAT Australia’s support. In order to provide power to health care facilities without electric grid access, UNICEF also procured 17 solar power packs that allows for the use of portable lights, laptops and mobile phone charging in some of our isolated stations, one of them is here in Nayavu-ira Nursing station. The procurement of the vaccine fridges, solar panels, power packs, freight and installation cost totaled a little over $USD640, 000. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is extremely grateful and thankful for this tremendous contribution,” Minister Akbar elaborated.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett said “Immunisation is one of the most cost effective and successful health interventions known to date. However, vaccines must be kept at the right temperature to work effectively.”

He added that vaccines need to be kept in a narrow temperature range from the point of manufacture to their use in a clinic or health center. This is called the ‘cold chain’ which is crucial to vaccine supply chains.

Effective cold chain systems require efficient vaccine storage, handling and management to maintain vaccines under strict temperature control between 2°C and 8°C (for almost all vaccines). However, despite the achievements of global immunisation programmes, cold chain equipment in some locations is ageing, underperforming or no longer ideal.

The Australian High Commission’s Counsellor Development Cooperation, Christina Munzer said “Australia is proud to have supported this initiative that we hope will make Fiji’s health system even more resilient to future disasters.”

Prior to installation of solar direct drive refrigerators, Fiji was using absorption type refrigerators working with gas cylinders. This 35 year old equipment is costly to operate, unreliable and not environmental friendly.

Mr Yett said “This solution uses an energy source that never runs dry – the sun. It also provides a reliable cold chain for essential vaccines even in the most remote and disaster affected areas.”

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicefpacific.org. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

About the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

DFAT provides foreign, trade and development policy advice to the Australian government. We work with other government agencies to ensure that Australia’s pursuit of its global, regional and bilateral interests is coordinated effectively. For more information about DFAT visit www.dfat.gov.au

About the Ministry of Health and Medical Services

The Ministry of Health is responsible for the following: Medical services including drug and other supplies; Associated with patient care in urban hospitals and health centres; Subdivisional hospitals; Rural Medical and Nursing Stations; Research confined to virus control, vector control, filariasis control and surveillance of AIDS; Public Health targeted at Maternal/Child Health; Communicable Disease Prevention; Family Planning, Pollution Control and Rural Health Sefices; Health Education and Training through FSM and FSN; and the operation of three Nursing Homes (Old People’s Home) at Suva, Lautoka and Labasa;http://www.health.gov.fj

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