THE Health Department and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) are testing a new type of solar-powered refrigerator that could revolutionise accessibility to immunisation vaccines in rural health centres.
The World Health Organisation and the Japanese government are also involved in funding the project.
Unicef consultant Dr Julian Bilous said developing the refrigerator would ensure that life-saving vaccines were kept at the right temperature in places where there was no electricity supply.
Last August, Unicef placed five new models of solar refrigerator at the Efogi, Moreguina, Hula, Kuriva and Agevairu health centres in Central province.
“The new ‘solar chill’ refrigerators have a huge advantage over the old kind; they have no external battery, they are easy to set up and much cheaper to buy,” Dr Bilous said.
He said the solar panels produced “electricity which drives the fridge’s motor and makes ice in one compartment, while a small fan blows cold air from the ice into the other compartment where vaccine is kept.”
Dr Bilous, Health Department’s logistics manager Anthony Mala and Unicef’s Dr Anatoly Abramov are currently monitoring the performance of the fridges which are being installed at three of the five pilot rural health centres at Kuriva, Agevairu and Hula.
Results show that the continuous temperature readings from these new fridges have been encouraging and the health centre staff are impressed.
“Now we have a fridge of our own for the first time,” was the comment from Kuriva.
At Agevairu, the staff are pleased they do not have to buy gas bottles any more.
Unicef will further assess the use of the equipment at the five health centres before making a final recommendation, but it looks like PNG can now use the latest technology to help save more children’s lives in rural areas.