Solar Energy does a power of good in PNG

In Australia, solar power is fairly new, and those of us who chose to buy or use solar panels are mostly doing it to help the environment or cut our electricity bills. So why is it important for Papua New Guinea (PNG) to have solar power for its health facilities?

Imagine delivering a baby, stitching up a wound, or putting a drip in by the light of a torch or a small lantern. Inadequate light is something nurses and health care workers have to contend with in aid posts and rural health centres across Papua New Guinea, as they try to give their patients the best medical attention possible.

While the larger towns of PNG have electricity, you very seldom come across a place that has electricity out in the remote or rural villages. According to the World Health Organisation, that is exactly where over 80% of the population of PNG is currently living.

This lack of electricity becomes a problem when translated to the aid posts and rural health centres of Lutheran Health Services (a branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea), which provide ‘front line’ health care in many isolated villages around PNG. A single aid post, the very first port of call for Papua New Guineans needing medical attention, usually has a service area of 1,000 to 5,000 people.

People going to the outpatient department for an emergency, or going to the health centre very sick or in labour, find they are being treated under whatever source of light is available: often a small kerosene lantern, or maybe a torch. If they are lucky, the health centre may have a pressure lamp (operated by a pump), which gives a slightly better light. Even these lanterns, torches or pressure lamps are not always guaranteed to be available: batteries go flat, wicks and mantles wear out, kerosene runs out, and often the centre is far from a store that stocks these supplies.

Some of the larger rural health centres used to have light from portable generators when missionaries were stationed there and used overseas money to buy fuel. Now these areas are independent churches, fuel is much too expensive, and there is no one trained in keeping old generators in good repair – not a cost-effective or viable way to go!

Having a solar power system set up in the health centres, giving light to at least the labour ward, the treatment room, and the ward for the very sick, goes a long way towards giving patients the care they need. Solar panel systems cost little to run and need little maintenance. To set up a solar system, several panels are needed to charge special batteries from which solar lights can be run at night; the number of panels depends on how much power is needed in that centre.

In some areas the solar power is also used to run small fridges, in which vaccines for immunising children are kept. Some centres have kerosene or gas fridges, but these are not without problems – many villages are only accessible by foot or by plane, so remote centres cannot always get kerosene or bottled gas. A solar-powered vaccine fridge is comparatively a very independent set-up.

In a few health centres, solar power has already been successfully used for quite a few years. However, many health facilities still have no power at all. Lutheran Health Services Secretary Don Kudan saw the opportunity to expand the project further and sent out a request for help.

The Lutheran Women of Australia have answered by making solar power for PNG rural health centres one of their official projects for the next three years. In helping to bring light to Lutheran Health Services aid posts and rural health care centres, you will be helping PNG health services staff to save lives and contributing to improving the quality of health care provided in Papua New Guinea.

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to

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