Electrician Phil gives technical support to Nzara Hospital.
You may not know that MAF doesn’t just fly planes but also runs its own Technical Services Ministry in South Sudan to assist missions and Christian organisations with their technical needs in areas where we have expertise.
At the end of June, MAF Electrical Engineer Phil jumped on board a MAF flight to Yambio help out our partner CMMB (Catholic Medical Mission Board) a faith-based NGO which runs St Terese hospital in Nzara, Western Equatoria State.
Phil spent two days in Nzara working on the electrical systems that power the hospital. Facilities in the hospital include a maternity ward, operating theatre, blood bank and laboratory. The hospital serves the needs of approximately 250,000 people in Nzara County and treats an estimated 17,000 patients each year.
‘We were asked by CMMB to come and fit and programme an inverter into the solar back up system at St in Nzara. An inverter converts power from battery power to normal AC power that the hospital can use. The hospital has a bank of solar panels capable of running the lights and electrical appliance across the entire hospital. There are six inverters – three of which are for the batteries,’ Phil explains.
‘The hospital had been running on generator power 24/7 while we completed the work. It was important to keep the electrical supply running because they were running an oxygen concentrators on one of the wards. This is a vital piece of equipment used to treat people with respiratory diseases like pneumonia. Children and older people are the most vulnerable to these conditions and most in need of urgent medical care. People visit the hospital more often during the wet season, the time of year when you get a spike in Malaria cases.
‘Solar power is a sustainable solution for remote hospitals where it can be difficult to access fuel to run the generator. It takes more than 60 litres of fuel a day to keep the generator running.
‘On the short one-hour drive from the airstrip in Yambio to Nzara, I got a taste of the road conditions people face as they try to move around. We flew in on Tuesday and it rained heavily that night. If we’d had to travel the following day we would have been slipping and sliding all over the road and disappearing into potholes as big as lakes – even in a 4X4. It was a good reminder of how challenging it is moving around during the wet season in South Sudan and made me think of the patients who would mostly arrive at the hospital by boda boda or on foot. I was reminded that remote hospitals and clinics are vital for people in remote rural communities who face many barriers accessing medical care, and may not be able to travel further afield.
‘I enjoyed the experience. It was great to see first-hand some of the work that MAF supports and not just fly with CMMB’s workers but also work alongside the hospital maintenance team to complete the needed work.’
Story by Jenny Davies, photos by Phil Buhler