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Bo has one of the highest new-born mortality rates in the world. Furthermore Ebola has severely impacted the healthcare system in Sierra Leone and care for neonates is particularly challenging. One of the main causes of death at the Bo Government Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the unreliable power supply - an issue we should be able to solve through our combined expertise.
70 babies are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit each month. About 25% of those babies die. A number of these babies die because either an oxygen or a heat source failed due to power outages, and it’s these babies that we’re hoping to target with this project.
The power supply in Sierra Leone is exceptionally poor. Only 13% of the population receives power and many areas have no grid access at all. The two main power sources are the oil fired Kingtom Power Station and the Bumbuna hydro-electric power plant. The Kingtom Station is aging and unable to ensure the delivery of a reliable and stable supply. While Bumbuna hydro plant has the ability to generate 50MW, but during the long dry seasons the reservoir often runs low, leaving much of the country without power.
The oxygen concentrators are the most important piece of equipment. These devices are plugged into a power source and they provide a continuous, stable oxygen supply to babies. Just a short time with no oxygen can, and does, kill. The other important pieces of equipment that are susceptible to power outages are the baby warmers. These are electric heaters that provides warmth to babies that are too small and weak to maintain an adequate core temperature.
The sooner we raise the funds the sooner we can complete this project. As soon as we raise the first £28,000 we can place an order for the batteries which have a 10-12 week lead time, during which time we hope to raise the rest of the funds. Installation itself will only require 12-14 days.
Funds for training and maintenance have been budgeted. The technical team will perform quarterly maintenance checks and the local team will be trained in the use of the system.
We are targeting £100,000. All proceeds will directly fund the purchase and implementation of a 20kW solar and battery system for Bo’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We will also be providing a spare parts kit and a back-up diesel generator – we don’t think it should be needed, but we don’t want to take any chances – as well as maintenance. For more information on project costs click here to see the summary on the home page.
Any surplus funds raised will either go to help close other dire gaps in neonatal or maternity services in the region, or towards the cost of replacement batteries (they have around a seven-year life).
The health care system collapsed during the Ebola crisis 2014 to 2016. During the outbreak medical resources were diverted away from day to day care and the health system was badly compromised. Providing new-born care in Sierra Leone has always been challenging, but an already struggling system effectively collapsed. Once the Ebola crisis was declared over, a long process of rebuilding the health service began.
The NICU was established in July 2017 by Dr. Niall Conroy, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and UNICEF. Prior to the existence of the NICU, new born babies were cared for in the same overcrowded ward as older children. This meant that a three year old with pneumonia or meningitis would be cared for next to a premature baby without a functioning immune system. This resulted in many avoidable deaths. Before its establishment, the general children’s ward would treat about 15 new-borns per month. Now the NICU admits about 70 babies and treats them for free. It’s hard to know where the additional 55 babies per month went before the NICU opened, but it’s likely that many of them died at home or in other hospitals.