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Addressing a Critical Need: Solar Power for The Bachuma District Hospital

The Bachuma District Hospital is located in the town of Bachuma in the West Omo Zone (WOZ) of southwestern Ethiopia. The hospital provides labor and delivery services to pregnant women who live in surrounding communities. Recently, the hospital began providing emergency obstetric care, i.e. caesarian sections, to pregnant women in distress. In fact, the hospital is the only medical facility in the WOZ, home to 700,000 people, that is able to provide women in the Zone with this critical lifesaving service.

Improvements Already Made

When we first visited the hospital in 2016, it was just an empty concrete shell of a building. With no access to water, the hospital could not open its doors to patient care.  Working with our on the ground partner Afro Ethiopia Integrated Development (AEID), Village Health Partnership (VHP) successfully implemented a bore hole well and pump on the hospital grounds in 2020.  With year-round access to water and new measures for sanitation and hygiene, the hospital was able to begin providing medical services, including skilled assistance with labor and delivery.  An operating theater with operating rooms complete with anesthesia machines, a dressing room, scrub-in area and room for instrument sterilization, an area for labor and deliver and a neonatal intensive care unit were opened.  Nurse midwives were hired and an Integrated Emergency Surgical Officer (IESO) began to operate, performing a limited number of caesarian sections.

IESO at Bachuma District Hospital

Intermittent Power

When we returned to visit the hospital in 2021, community stakeholders identified the need for consistent, reliable power at the hospital as their number one priority.  The hospital has an old dilapidated generator that is very expensive to run and difficult to maintain.  It also has intermittent access to electricity from the grid.  However, these sources of electricity are not able provide enough consistent power to run the operating room theater, labor and delivery, the neonatal intensive care unit and the lab.  Medical providers are often forced to deliver babies in the dark, cancel surgery and transfer high-risk mothers and babies to the regional hospital in Mizan—a three-hour journey over rough roads that are frequently cut off in the rainy season.

A Way Forward: New Solar Power System

Working with the community, local government officials, Suntransfer Tech and the Solar Energy Foundation in Addis Ababa, and Water Engineers for the Americas and Africa (WEFTA) in Santa Fe, VHP is now ready to implement a solar power system for the hospital. 

Septic baby at Bachuma District Hospital

Tamiru “Mitiku” Mattoy, Me’en tribal leader and Head of the West Omo Zone, has assured us that the Zone will contribute $40,000 toward the $206,000 cost of the project—a huge amount of money for one of the poorest and most underserved parts of rural Ethiopia—but it demonstrates the need and the community’s commitment. Thanks to the hard work of Rotarians Steve Werner, Peter Van Arsdale and Laury Bowman (Peter and Laury are also VHP board members), Rotary Clubs in Denver have also pledged funding.  Many foundations and individuals have given generously, including the Wallace Genetic Foundation, International Foundation, Eugene and Florence Armstrong Family Foundation, and Henry Niles Foundation to name only a few.  We hope to secure all the needed funding this spring and implement this important project by the end of 2023.

Thank you for supporting safer motherhood in rural Ethiopia!

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