No electricity, no problem. Seventy-four Godrej solar refrigerators with Sure Chill technology have begun to be distributed to more than 100 health centers in Cyclone Winston affected areas in Fiji, to ensure life-saving vaccines or medicines stay effective even without electricity.

Following the category five cyclone in February 2016 which caused widespread damage to health and community infrastructure and disrupted delivery and access to public health services, UNICEF through funding from the Australian government procured the Sure Chill refrigerators.

Sure Chill engineers travelled over Fiji to train their local service and installation partners. A detailed and intensive course taught the local partners Sure Chill specific installation guidelines and operational best practices.

The Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon. Rosy Akbar launched the solar fridges at Nayavu-i-Ra Sub Divisional Office in Ra in May 2017. Minister Akbar described the launch as an integral component to the revival of national immunization supply chain in Fiji through solarization of healthcare facilities.

“Ensuring the availability and efficiency of the cold chain infrastructure is a critical public health priority to protect new-born and infants from vaccine preventable diseases. It is imperative to the safety, efficiency and availability of vaccines, and the continuity of the immunization programme throughout Fiji,” she said.

“For recovery and strengthening of cold chain system in Fiji, 74 solar direct drive vaccine refrigerators and 32 refrigerators (electrical) were procured by UNICEF through DFAT Australia’s support. In order to provide power to health care facilities without electric grid access, UNICEF also procured 17 solar power packs that allows for the use of portable lights, laptops and mobile phone charging in some of our isolated stations, one of them is here in Nayavu-ira Nursing station. The procurement of the vaccine fridges, solar panels, power packs, freight and installation cost totaled a little over $USD640, 000. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is extremely grateful and thankful for this tremendous contribution,” Minister Akbar elaborated.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett said “Immunisation is one of the most cost effective and successful health interventions known to date. However, vaccines must be kept at the right temperature to work effectively.”

Photo courtesy of UNICEF Pacific

He added that vaccines need to be kept in a narrow temperature range from the point of manufacture to their use in a clinic or health center. This is called the ‘cold chain’ which is crucial to vaccine supply chains.

Effective cold chain systems require efficient vaccine storage, handling and management to maintain vaccines under strict temperature control between 2°C and 8°C (for almost all vaccines). However, despite the achievements of global immunisation programmes, cold chain equipment in some locations is ageing, underperforming or no longer ideal.

The Australian High Commission’s Counsellor Development Cooperation, Christina Munzer said “Australia is proud to have supported this initiative that we hope will make Fiji’s health system even more resilient to future disasters.”

Prior to installation of solar direct drive refrigerators, Fiji was using absorption type refrigerators working with gas cylinders. This 35 year old equipment is costly to operate, unreliable and not environmental friendly.

Mr Yett said “This solution uses an energy source that never runs dry – the sun. It also provides a reliable cold chain for essential vaccines even in the most remote and disaster affected areas.”

This article is adapted from UNICEF East Asia and Pacific – used under CC2.0

Lead photo courtesy of Fiji Sun