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US launches bid to bring power to African hospitals

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The Rutshuru hospital supported by MSF (Doctors Without Borders), seen in July 2022, is the only functional health facility in war-battered area of the Democratic Republic of Congo./AFP
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Dec 15, 2022 - 08:03 AM

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday announced a $150 million initiative to bring power to hospitals in Africa, hoping to address a key challenge holding up health care on the continent.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the five-year program aimed at bringing electricity as well as internet access to at least 10,000 health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa.

Funded through partnerships with the private sector, the so-called Health Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance will focus on renewable energy in keeping with US promises on climate change.

USAID estimated that more than 100,000 public health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa lacked reliable electricity, which is also a prerequisite to internet access.

“Millions of people seeking care and treatment are at risk because they cannot depend on refrigeration for medical commodities like vaccines, the presence of lights for births or emergency surgeries at night or the digital connectivity for communications and records management that modern medicine relies on,” USAID said in a statement.

“In short, insufficient power denies access to life-saving care.”

Communities will also be able to sell excess electricity from power generation, providing jobs, USAID said.

The electricity push is one of a slew of announcements at the US-Africa summit led by President Joe Biden, the first continent-wide meeting by a US leader in eight years.

The United States at the summit pledged $55 billion over three years to support Africa. Private companies have also promised to step up efforts to improve electricity and internet access on the continent.

The Biden administration has sought to draw a contrast with China, which has surpassed the United States as Africa’s top investor led by major infrastructure projects that often come through loans.

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