The small, mountainous nation of Lesotho is heavily afflicted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; approximately 23 percent of its population suffers from the virus and other infectious diseases that can stem from it, such as tuberculosis.
Medical personnel, working with as few as five physicians per 100,000 people, are faced with enormous challenges when providing health care services. The ability to access online medical records, perform health assessments using advanced medical equipment, and provide around the clock care are critical in diagnosing and treating patients that often seek care from clinics in different locations.
In 2008, SELF teamed with Partners In Health (PIH), an international medical organization committed to improving the health of the poor and marginalized, to incorporate solar power into its health clinics to provide the additional electricity needed to power a network of computers connected by VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellites that reliably transfer video, voice and data. This first phase of the partnership led to the installation of 2 kW solar electric systems at each of four PIH clinics.
Phase two of the project was implemented in 2010, adding 3 kW of power to each of the phase one systems and installed new, 2 kW solar systems at each of three additional PIH clinics. This was made possible in large part by support from the SunPower Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the SunPower Corporation to work with global partners to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.
The results of these projects – new communications systems, improved access to health records, installation of new x-ray machines to diagnose tuberculosis, extended run-time of medical equipment, and the implementation of critical lighting – not only contribute to the success of the PIH medical staff in providing long-term, quality medical services that are faster and more accurate, but also provide certainty to the women, men and children of Lesotho that they have access to the types of health care needed to combat disease.