Makerere University Launches Project to Aid Remote Health Facilities

Makerere University Launches Project to Aid Remote Health Facilities

Makerere University on 8th December 2021 officially unveiled an African project to Benefit Health Facilities across the continent. The Project is called sustainable Off-grid solutions for Pharmacies and Hospitals in Africa (SophiA).

The launch was presided over by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Professor Barnabas Nawangwe. The SophiA project will benefit both Makerere and the Health system in remote parts of the country by granting access to off-grid carbon-neutral electricity, heating and cooling of food and medicines, storage of vaccines up to -70°C as well as access to safe and clean drinking water.

Makerere is partnering with 13 organizations across Europe and Africa in the project funded by the European Union to ensure extended support to Health Centre Fours (HC IVs) across four African countries. It will be a 4-year multi-disciplinary project with activities in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, and Uganda.

The SophiA system components and layout (Courtesy Photo)

The University will take the lead in two of the project’s nine work packages. Work Package 1 (WP 1) is aimed at assessing the needs of several health facilities in the above mentioned countries in order to identify and match in each country ONE most significant and suitable health facility. The facility, which must be located in a rural remote region of the country will then be served by a SophiA system on a pilot basis.

Makerere will also take the lead in work package 7 (WP 7), which will investigate the environmental, economic, and social aspects to demonstrate the benefits of SophiA solutions.

During the launch, Vice Chancellor congratulated the team upon winning the grant adding that it is projects of this nature that will help Makerere implement its new strategic plan.

“First of all, I want to congratulate the team of Dr. Kiggundu, Dr. Bimbona, and Dr. Muhangi upon winning this grant. Makerere has a strategic plan which seeks to make the University even more research-intensive and we are only going to succeed in that if we have got the requisite human resource that not only applies for and wins grants but also does the research and disseminates the findings”. Prof Nawangwe stated.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (3rd R) with R-L: Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, Dr. Nicholas Kiggundu, Dr. Denis Muhangi, Dr. Sarah Bimbona and Mr. John Tumuhimbise-Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development at the SophiA launch. (Photo by Alex Mugalu)

“This is a very good example of the capacity built by Makerere University over the years to improve its capacity in doing research and also wining grants. At the moment more than 50% of all the money for research that is coming into Makerere is either by individual researchers or groups of researchers or consortia like the one we are seeing here. I therefore want to believe that Makerere has really has reached the capacity of doing research of the highest standard with big grants won competitively at an international level and I want to congratulate you once again” the Vice Chancellor added.

In the same spirit, Professor Nawangwe acknowledged the European Union for considering Makerere‘s application for the grant and supporting the University in the implementation of the project. He also applauded the researchers and their partners for joining efforts to see that this project is a success.

“I thank the European Union for the grant, as well as the other partners of the project and all researchers for their efforts. It’s now my honor to launch the SophiA project.” Professor Nawangwe said.

Dr. Nicholas Kiggundu the project team leader from the Department of Agricultural and Bio systems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) made it clear that the project will focus on four major areas including availing electricity to health facilities, preservation of medicine, water purification and improving hospital room temperatures.

“You may have heard in the past that Uganda might not get certain vaccines for COVID-19 because most of our facilities don’t store such vaccines, so this project will restore that possibility. We have a challenge of purified water whereby when you go to the hospital and are given some medicine to swallow but the water is not safe. And so we shall be able to purify water in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way without mixing the chemicals such as chlorine. We shall also make sure that the rooms in the hospital are cool”. Dr. Kiggundu said.

Dr. Denis Muhangi from the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) noted that this project will be multidisciplinary so as to find comprehensive solutions for health challenges in Uganda.

“If this project provides refrigeration to the health centres in remote parts of the country, solar energy, as well as all these water treatment and safe storage facilities, we will for sure have solved the bulk of challenges facing health centres in this country.” Dr. Muhangi said.

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