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Publication Title | Solar Electricity in a Maasai Hospital

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Mark Hankins ©1998 Mark Hankins

asso Hospital is located in the deep bush of Maasailand,

nestled along the Tanzania- Kenya border between three spec- tacular game parks (Serengeti, the Maasai Mara, and Ngorongoro Crater) and the Loita Hills. Hundreds of miles from the nearest tarmac road, it is a mission outpost dreamed into being in Tanzania’s early post-independence days by a celebrated Austrian priest, doctor, and hunter named Wassenger.

The hospital was established in wilder days, when a mzungu (white) doctor could shoot game and swig sundowners in between bloody sessions in the operating room and when the Catholic sisters and volunteer orderlies would trek for picnics on nearby hills. Today, the head doctor doesn’t carry an elephant gun and much of the old bush romance is gone, but Wasso is still one of the best hospitals in the region, providing primary health care services and front line treatment against the most common local ailments— tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.

36 Home Power #64 • April / May 1998

To get to Wasso one drives over savannah plains and through acacia woodland populated by wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and giraffe; and the ubiquitous Maasai with their vast herds of long-horn cattle. Driving into the compound in the morning through a forest of riverine fever trees, one sees the buildings of the hospital compound with their tin roofs and neat flower gardens. On one side of the compound dozens of shuka-clad moran (Maasai warriors) sit in the shade of acacias and, on the other side, bangled women sit with babies awaiting post-natal check-ups.

Over the years, supplying power to the hospital has become a nightmare. As Wasso has grown, so have its energy requirements and, what with all of the other daily crises, there has been precious little time to think about energy systems. I was flown in last December to do an energy audit with a view to solving as many problems as possible with solar. At the time, the energy systems were inefficiently, and somewhat hazardously, ramshackled together. The genset was regularly run three hours a night and was switched on irregularly when needed. The energy situation is truly out of hand when one must fire up a 25 kVA generator to run a bubble-jet printer.

Our report recommended a reorganization of the hospital’s energy system. Six months later, the Energy Alternatives AFRICA team was hired to do the job with

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