For a hospital serving a remote community in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province, if the power fails and the backup generator is offline, staff must rush out of their homes in the middle of the night and drive several miles to stash their vaccine stock in a fridge in the provincial capital.
Now, a pilot project hopes to solve the obstacles by using surplus electricity from cellphone towers to run fridges that chill those perishable vaccines. New Scientist reports.
The idea was suggested by Harvey Rubin of the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, and now it’s being tried out at 10 church-run hospitals across Zimbabwe – with the backing of Econet Wireless, a cellphone provider based in Johannesburg.
To keep their towers working reliably in areas where the power often fails (or the masts are off the grid), cellphone firms have installed generators and sometimes solar panels.
These then, can be used to help maintain the cold chain, the weakest link in efforts to immunize children against diseases like polio, measles, and diphtheria.
In India, Rubin's non-profit organization, Energize the Chain, is in talks about a controlled experiment to confirm if sites powered by cellphone towers have less vaccine spoilage. (Vials of vaccine can be fitted with labels that darken with exposure to heat.) Meanwhile in Kenya, Energize the Chain hopes to launch a pilot project involving 10 or more sites, with the backing of both the Kenyan and US governments.
[Via New Scientist]
Image by .Larry Page via Flickr
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com