Located in northern Rwanda, Shyira hospital overlooks the Musarara river. The valley doesn’t have an electricity supply so the hospital relies on a diesel generator to run life-saving equipment and to keep essential medicines refrigerated. A local business called SOGEMR is however, constructing a small dam on the river to supply electricity to the hospital and other health centres at Nyakigezi, Nyakiliba and Gatonde in the valley.

One of the company’s founders is a doctor from the Shyira hospital, who is tired of watching the hospital’s limited resources spent on diesel. The doctor’s hydroelectricity plant will initially sell any surplus power it generates to the national grid to get the necessary financial returns. But in time SOGEMR plans to set up a local distribution network which will give people across the whole valley access to electricity for the first time.

While the construction of the hydro project is supported by GIZ the Germany development agency in this first phase, GVEP is discussing a plan for assisting SOGEMR with building the local distribution grid. “This is an important pilot,” says James Wakaba, GVEP’s Africa Regional Manager. “Energy is essential for a functional health system. It’s needed to light operating theatres, refrigerate vaccines and sterilise equipment."

With regulation changing in Rwanda to become more private sector friendly, GVEP will assist SOGEMR to build a local distribution network from their site allowing them to sell their electricity directly to the customers. GVEP also hopes that with its help some more sites can be built in that area.

The Musarara pilot is one of the projects supported under the Supporting Energy SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa programme which aims to assist energy enterprises by offering business training, access to finance and investment. The programme is funded by the Russian Government through a World Bank trust fund. GVEP is working closely with government agencies on ways to increase private sector involvement in meeting energy demand.

As well as being essential for the provision of safe and effective healthcare, modern energy is vital for generating jobs, industry, transport and modern agriculture. It removes the need to use traditional biomass fuels such as firewood or charcoal, which means girls, who usually collect firewood, can go to school, and women have more time to earn a living for themselves and their families. Reliable household lighting extends the productive working day and enables children to study for school in the evenings.

However, 1.6 billion people globally lack access to adequate energy services, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Two million deaths annually are associated with the indoor burning of solid fuels in unventilated kitchens and 44% of these are children. In the Least Developed Countries and in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 50% of all deaths from pneumonia in children under five and chronic lung disease and lung cancer in adults over 30 can be attributed the use of solid fuels. Those who do manage to get to a healthcare facility may find their healthcare compromised by poor energy access at hospitals and clinics themselves.

<i>By Laure Ego

For the full story visit GVEP International's news article.</i>