Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
THE rampant theft of solar systems is crippling operations of rural health facilities in Matabeleland South province.
Due to theft and vandalism of Zesa infrastructure, health institutions in rural areas have turned to solar power for an interrupted supply of electricity.
A constant supply of electricity at rural health centres is an effective tool in improving core components of health systems such as access to health information through electronic media, boosting the utilisation of child immunisation and maternal health services as well as ensuring uninterrupted availability of water through boreholes.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director Dr Rudo Chikodzero said there is a need for continuous supply of electricity to maintain a cold chain of vaccines and for use in departments such as the pharmacy and maternity as well as the laboratory.
“There’s need for continuous electricity to maintain cold chain for some of our vaccinations.
With all our six district hospitals and one provincial hospital in the province, we have solar systems of a capacity of 40 kilowatts (Kw) which target specific departments including maternity, pharmacy and the laboratory.
Of the 120 facilities, the distribution of the capacities of the solar systems are such that 95 have 5Kw, which is mainly the clinics.
Nine have 10Kw, mainly the rural hospitals, five have 7Kw, two have 12Kw while nine have 40Kw,” said Dr Chikodzero.
She however, said the theft of solar systems at health institutions in the province was affecting their operations and service delivery.
“One of the major challenges we have with the solar systems in place are issues of theft which have been rampant since last year.
At Empandeni Clinic, five solar batteries were stolen while Marula Clinic lost six solar panels and three solar batteries to thieves.
At Chamnangana Clinic, 20 solar batteries and 18 solar panels and an inverter were stolen while at Hlangano Clinic, 15 solar panels and three solar batteries were stolen.
Kumbudzi Clinic lost 15 solar panels and three solar batteries.
Of concern is that some of these thefts were armed robberies and most of the institutions were not able to recover anything,” said Dr Chikodzero.
She said the province continues to work with Government and its partners to facilitate expansion of the solar systems at health facilities in Matabeleland South.
There are 138 health facilities in the province with one provincial hospital, five district hospitals, four mission hospitals and the rest being clinics.
“Of these health facilities, 128 have some sort of solar system in place which were installed through the Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with the UNDP,” said Dr Chikodzero.