Rwanda has one of the highest in country HIV/AIDS rates in the world. Approximately three percent of the adult population is infected with the virus and as a result, an estimated 210,000 children have been orphaned. Additionally, the country’s chronic shortage of physicians and nurses, combined with poor clinical and laboratory infrastructure, compounds the problem of providing adequate diagnostic and treatment services that can help fight the disease.
Since 2003, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) has taken up the challenge of electrifying health care facilities throughout the country along with Partners In Health, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Initiative.
SELF’s partnership with PIH in Rwanda has proven to be long lasting and very successful. After stating its case for why solar power is more effective than the diesel generators PIH was using to power its clinics, SELF installed solar-diesel hybrid systems at health care facilities in Mulindi, Rusumo, Rukira, Nyarabuye, and Kirehe. The systems generate 90 percent or more of their power from the sun, with diesel generators for back-up during prolonged heavy usage, or in periods of rain. These systems now supply power for vaccine refrigeration, computer record keeping and communication via satellite, as well as solar powered microscopes, blood analysis machines, centrifuges, portable X-ray machines, and sterilization devices.
Most recently, SELF teamed up with The Ihangane Project (TIP) – a nonprofit focused on providing funding and technical support to community-initiated projects that specifically address improving HIV prevention, education, diagnosis, and treatment – in the Gakenke District of Rwanda, a small fraction of the country heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS.
In 2010, SELF partnered with TIP to electrify two health clinics and three remote health posts. In July 2010, a decade-old, inoperable 500 Wp solar system was replaced with a new 1.6 kW solar array at the Nyange Health Center. The new system now provides power to computer and communication systems, new lighting and diagnostic equipment.