Clean Energy is Life
A recent systematic review of available data on health care facilities energy access in 11 sub-Saharan African countries revealed that on average, 26% of health facilities reported no access to electricity. Only 34% of hospitals had reliable electricity access. Lack of access to energy, in particular electricity, in health care facilities is a critical bottleneck impeding the delivery of essential health services, particularly in resource constrained settings.
·Almost 3 billion people rely on solid fuels (wood, charcoal, dung, crop waste) to meet their basic cooking and heating needs. Each year, 4.3 million die prematurely as a result of exposure to household air pollution caused by the use of such fuels. Most heavily affected are women and children in the developing world. Household air pollution accounts for: ~ 54% of all childhood pneumonia deaths; ~ 30% of all COPD deaths, ~ 22% of all deaths from stroke, ~ 15% of all deaths from ischaemic heart disease, and ~ 17% of all lung cancer deaths.
In recognition of the above linkages between energy and health and energy and health services delivery, WHO has two major programmes focused on energy and health. The first seeks to improve access to energy in health care facilities, particularly in resource constrained settings. The second, seeks to improve health and well-being especially of women and children, through clean household energy.
With respect to energy access in health care facilities, within a wider programme of work on Greening the Health Sector, WHO’s efforts are focused on:
a) Improving measurement, monitoring, and reporting of trends in energy access in health care facilities, including through the expanded use and refinement of health facility survey tools such as WHO’s Service Availability and Readiness Assessment (SARA).
b) Convening health and energy sector actors to facilitate improved consideration of energy issues within wider health systems policy and planning processes;
c) Conducting outreach and awareness-raising about the importance of efficient, sustainable energy service provision as part of improved health service delivery.
Many of the above activities are being implemented as part of the SE4ALL High Impact Opportunity on Energy for Women’s and Children’s Health together with the United Nations Foundation and UN Women.
WHO activities focused on energy in homes, and in particular on reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, include:
a) Providing technical support to countries in the development and implementation of policies that protect public health from household energy use and household air pollution
b) Monitoring and tracking access to energy in the home, exposure to household air pollution and its associated disease burden at a national, regional and global level.
c) Working with countries, researchers and other partners to harmonize methods of evaluation across settings so that health impacts are assessed consistently and rigorously and also incorporate economic assessment of health benefits.
d) Providing normative guidance on what household fuels and technologies can be considered clean and safe for health.