2007 – Solar power project

The aim:

To deliver 24 hour electricity to the Children’s Ward, bringing with it all of the associated benefits of electrification.

Why the need?

The thought of a western doctor or nurse attending to emergencies in darkness is one that is utterly unimaginable. Yet for the vast majority of its history, the medical personnel in Bansang have had to endure the heartache of attending to emergencies under candle-light. Trying to administer cannulas to anemic children is challenging even under the most optimum of conditions; trying to find that same vein under the flicker of candle-light is all but impossible (something Anita’s son Laurence experienced on his first visit to Bansang, when a child died because the nursing staff couldn’t find the child’s vein in the gloom of the African night).

The hospital does have its own means of providing power; however, the big old Rolls Royce diesel generator is very thirsty, and prohibitively expensive to run. Firing it up can take up to 20 minutes; time that is absolutely vital when an emergency arrives at the hospital. Providing 24 hour power would therefore help to significantly improve patient care on the new Children’s Ward, helping save lives as well as ensuring the hospital continues its excellent progress towards achieving its Millennium Development Goals for health.

The project:

Installing a solar power system for the 80 bed Children’s Unit was an incredibly ambitious undertaking. To our knowledge, nothing like it had been undertaken up to that point in the Gambia. The cost of the deep cycle batteries, the solar charging system and the panels was set to cost £32,000 – a huge burden for Anita’s single woman fundraising efforts. Yet it was an absolutely vital aspect of the new Children’s Ward. Fortunately, a UK engineering firm came forward to fund and install the entire system.

  • Mark Lowry of MITIE engineering - project manager for the solar power installation
  • The solar power equipment, ready to be loaded for its voyage to The Gambia
  • The battery bank in the purpose buily battery house
  • The equipment, unpacked and ready to be installed
  • Mark & Adam having succesfully completed the installation
  • Adam of MITIE engineering, fitting the solar panels to the roof of the ward
  • The solar panels fitted on the roof of the Children's Ward
  • Mark Lowry, inspecting the work
  • The control panel for the solar power system - all supplied and fitted by MITIE
  • Adam, Anita and Mark - testing out the installation
  • Fatou, switching on the solar powered lighting for the first time!
  • What it all means - light where there was once darkness
  • Smiles all round

 

This was MITIE engineering’s first project for the hospital (they later undertook something even more ambitious; completely renovating the old colonial house for staff accommodation!!)

Impact:

Since the projects completion in 2006, this project has delivered continuous 24 hour electricity to the Children’s Unit. Its benefits are enjoyed by every single child that enters the ward. Vital electrical equipment is available at all times of day and night – helping to completely remove the timetable lottery that saw some children die simply because the electricity wasn’t on when they needed it. The solar power project continues to make a wonderful, lasting difference – one that may never have happened but for the incredible support of MITIE engineering services.

Funding status:

The solar power system in Bansang is a highly effective, durable installation. However, as with all solar power installations, the batteries do need changing periodically. This is quite an expensive undertaking; and so it is with great relief that we can now consider Power Up The Gambia our project partners. This American charity not only footed the entire $18,000 bill for the batteries, it is also going to be installing a much bigger solar installation at Bansang. To learn more about Power Up The Gambia, please click here.