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How renewable energy can transform Africa’s healthcare sector

renewable energy - cleanbuild

Did you know that humans collectively release about 50 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, a figure more than 40% higher than it was in 1990?

Alarming, not so? If you’re wondering what greenhouse gases are, this piece has got you covered.

A greenhouse gas is one that absorbs heat energy emitted from the earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Ozone (O3) are prime examples of these poisonous gases as they account for climate change and other catastrophic effects of global warming.

In a bid to slow down the effects of greenhouse gases, there’s a lot of advocacy going around for the adoption of renewable energy as alternative energy to burning fossil fuels.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for about 8.7 million global deaths each year, more than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

To varying degrees, virtually every sector of the global economy, ranging from agriculture, transportation, manufacturing to power production, contributes to greenhouse gases emission into the atmosphere.

While the health industry is deploying cutting-edge solutions to save human lives and become more accessible, it is not completely innocent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The medical sector consumes a lot of power and generates a lot of waste; hence, it could benefit from renewable energy.

According to a United Nations Fact Sheet on climate change, Africa is not a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions compared to other continents, yet it is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.

The continent’s healthcare sector can demonstrate its leadership in addressing climate change while accelerating the transition to a renewable energy economy.

Consider how renewable energy can transform Africa’s health sector:

Environmental conservation

Transitioning from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Why?

This is because renewable energy has a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Besides, its very nature suggests that it is produced from replenishable sources, so it actually conserves natural resources.

More accessible healthcare

The efficiency and flexibility of renewable energy could make healthcare more affordable and accessible for Africans, especially people in rural communities.

Many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity as such, renewables such as solar can provide backup energy for those without a reliable grid and power off-grid sites, enabling doctors to provide patients with needed care.

Renewables would also help convey delicate medical supplies to their destinations safely- case in point, Pfizer, a Covid-19 vaccine that requires low storage temperatures, can be challenging to maintain in Africa.

However, with solar panels, vaccines can be refrigerated to ensure continuous viability.

Reduction in medical cost

Many medical practitioners have found that by leveraging renewable energy, they can build their own decentralized, off-grid, and/or low-grid energy systems, rather than relying on utility companies.

With this cost-effective strategy, hospitals will spend less on utilities and patients would not need to pay exorbitant charges to receive basic medical attention.

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