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Solar-Powered Oxygen Saves Lives of Somali Children

A photo of the photovoltaic cell which is fitted on the roof of the Hanaano hospital, in the central town of Dhusamareb, Somalia on Jan. 20, 2022. It’s function is to capture solar energy. (Abdiwahid Moalin Isak/VOA)
Solar-Powered Oxygen Saves Lives of Somali Children
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Somali and World Health Organization doctors say a medical oxygen system powered by the sun is helping save lives at a hospital in central Somalia.

The solar-powered oxygen system is the first of its kind in the country. It was setup a year ago at Hanaano Hospital in the central town of Dhusamareb. The doctors said the system is effective and is helping save the lives of very young patients.

“This innovation is giving us promise and hopes,” said WHO Somalia Representative Dr. Mamunur Rahman Malik.

Malik said 171 patients received oxygen at the hospital from the solar-powered system from February to October of last year. Of those patients, 163 fully recovered and were able to leave. Only three patients died. Five others were sent to other hospitals.

A photo of the oxygen concentrator which is used to provide oxygen to the patients at Hanaano hospital, in the central town of Dhusamareb, Somalia, Jan. 20, 2022.
A photo of the oxygen concentrator which is used to provide oxygen to the patients at Hanaano hospital, in the central town of Dhusamareb, Somalia, Jan. 20, 2022.

Malik said that every year 15,000 to 20,000 children under five years of age in Somalia die from the lung disease pneumonia. He said pneumonia is the deadliest disease among children under the age of five in the country. Until now, health officials had not had a way to reduce deaths from childhood pneumonia.

Dr. Mohamed Abdi is the director of Hanaano Hospital. He praised the oxygen system.

“It has helped a lot, it has saved more than a hundred people who received the service,” he told VOA Somali.

Abdi said it was difficult for doctors to save the lives of children born early at the hospital before the system was put in place. The new system helps maintain high oxygen saturation levels in patients. Oxygen saturation levels are a measure of the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood.

Abdiaziz Omar Abdi was a child admitted to the hospital on January 16. He had severe pneumonia and was struggling to breathe normally. The oxygen rate in his body had dropped to 60 percent, Dr. Abdi said.

Doctors immediately gave him oxygen and provided the medicines ampicillin and dexamethasone. When he left the hospital three days later, the child was breathing normally. His oxygen level was up to 90 percent.

Abdiaziz received the treatment at no cost to his family.

Malik said the oxygen is being used to treat many medical conditions, including asphyxia, pneumonia, injuries, trauma, and road traffic accidents.

Malik said if this innovation is used widely in Somalia, it can save the lives of at least 7,000 children who die “needlessly” of pneumonia.

The move to install medical equipment that uses solar energy at Hanaano Hospital began during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. At the time, many people were dying because of breathing problems. Hospitals were unable to treat all the patients. And the cost of an oxygen container rose to between $400 and $600. Malik said that oxygen was “the biggest need in all the hospitals.”

Doctors said the solar-powered oxygen system can also provide electricity for other devices. The doctors said solar power can help provide energy for refrigeration needed to store vaccines or drugs at a low temperature.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Harun Maruf and Abdiwahid Maolin Isak reported on this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English.


Words in This Story

innovation –n. a new idea, device, or method

install –v. to make a machine or device ready to operate in the place where it is to be used

refrigeration –n. the process or use of a machine that can keep things inside it cold