COVID 19 Response: How solar lights are transforming lives of refugees in West Nile region
ARUA CITY — At the core of the Danish Refugee Council’s mission is to protect people displaced from their homes due to conflict. In fulfilment of this obligation, the DRC have for the last several years offered protection in different forms to refugees who camped in Uganda following the unrest in neighbouring South Sudan.
Following the outbreak of the Novel Corona Virus pandemic across the world, the DRC, working with strategic partners sought to intervene to offer critical emergency care for the vulnerable in the refugee settlement. Expectant mothers, women and the elderly as well as children we’re identified among the most vulnerable that needed the critical emergency intervention in the uncertain times.
Together with Dembe Group Signify Foundation, Sendea, Village Energy, the Danish Refugee Council in June donated solar lighting equipment to health facilities and strategic points in refugee settlements to improve the quality of health services offered and security to refugees as they struggle with the effects of COVID-19.
Kamwokya, Conta Africa village Slum
The residents of Conta Africa received the installation of solar street lighting in their area with much excitement and gratitude.
For long, residents have suffered at the hands of thugs who wait for the dark to cause mayhem, snatching bags and phones from people making their way home from work, sexually assaulting women and beating up some victims.
Testimonies from some dwellers in the area indicate that screams for help are often heard as early as 9 pm. This had forced the residents to have to retire early to avoid falling victim.
In partnership with Signify Foundation and Dembe Group, we installed 10 solar streetlights in spots identified by the area residents, led by the Local Chairman. The lights were strategically positioned at the dark spots in the area and this will flash out the hiding places of the attackers.
Bidibidi Refugee Settlement
Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Yumbe district is home to approximately 270,000 South Sudanese refugees, a large number being children. The Simbi Foundation built a computer lab for them to improve education. We installed a 1.2kW solar system to power lighting, laptops, and routers.
Fradox Medicare Limited
One and a half kilometers from Mbale town is a medical facility called Fradox Medicare. This health center was set up to help patients around Mbale town. One of the challenges they had was constant power blackouts. These blackouts made their service delivery slow or put at a halt. Their reagents that needed refrigeration were going to waste.
In the search for a solution, Fradox medicare opted for a generator that could keep the power on for proper service delivery and storage of their reagents. This increased their power bills by over 48% so they moved on to search for a better solution.
That’s when they opted for a solar energy system and after looking at a few companies that provided the service, they chose the reliable one and gave them options on how to set up the system that they needed. Brenda Kasede the Operations manager of Fradox Medicare testified that “having understood the components of the system, like remote monitoring and the Victron batteries I knew we were getting the best”.
They have enjoyed our products and services with hardly any challenges since they get notifications about the system straight to their email. “With the user training Village Energy gave to us, it has been convenient for us to use the system”, Brenda added.
Fradox Medicare has resolved its power challenges with the help of Village Energy. #CommunitySolarExperts
Loi Waisi Primary School Mbale
Productive use solar systems accelerate energy access in rural communities leading to improved livelihoods, job creation and access to services.Having over 70 schools in our portfolio, we have impacted over 20,000 students across Uganda.
With a reliable power source schools can:
a) provide lighting to classrooms
b) open up boarding facilities
c) charge office equipment AND
d) teach computer skills to the students
Introducing Waringa Matindi
Inspired by sustainable development, motivated by an equitable future, and hopeful about renewable energy, Waringa Matindi is welcomed as the new CEO of Village Energy. Her passion for equitable development is driven by empowering marginalized groups, whether it be women and girls, or rural communities who lack electricity. She is a Gender and Development Expert, with over 13 years’ experience working with non-profits in East Africa. Let’s get to know her better:
Who is Waringa Matindi?
I am a Kenyan, and I have been in Uganda for the last 3 years. From September 2015 to September this year, i worked in Jinja-Uganda on women and girl’s empowerment and later early childhood.
While I was in Nairobi, I worked in gender and human rights. I have worked in development all my life up to this point.
What inspired you to come to Uganda?
At that point in time I needed a change. Having worked for MEGEN (Men for Gender Equality Now) a non-profit focused on gender equality and human rights for 10 years, the work with time took a toll on me emotionally and mentally and it’s at that point that I felt I needed a change.
The transition to Uganda was easy for me because was working in an organisation that empowers women.
Having been a gender and Development expert for the last 13+ years, how do you think access to energy is related to gender equality?
In Africa, including Uganda – the face of poverty is women and girls. They suffer the most from negative health effects of some of the fuels used like paraffin, kerosene, and charcoal which affects their opportunity to earn a living and ability to enjoy education. When women and girls have access to clean and affordable energy, their health, education prospects etc. will improve, and they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities around them.
How does it feel like to be one of the few female CEOs for a solar energy company in East Africa?
One of the achievements in the Gender & Development sector is that there are many female CEOs and Executive Directors. It’s special for me because I have worked with, and been mentored by many female CEOs whom I have always looked up to.
During my work in Jinja for example, both my CEOs were female and I know what I would love to emulate from them. I would say my favourite female CEO is Wangu Kanja who runs the Wangu Kanja Foundation based in Nairobi.
What does Village Energy’s commitment to SDG 7 mean to you?
I saw a newspaper article today about a policy that is aiming at increasing electricity access in Uganda to 60% of the population by 2027.
What are your visions for Village Energy?
We need to improve our visibility in Uganda. I would like Village Energy to be a household name and to achieve this, we need to increase our marketing penetration. We have a fantastic product and my vision is for VE to become the leading productive use company in Uganda
Have you had the chance to go out in the field and interact with the people?
Yes, I have been to our 5 hubs and had a chance to interact with the staff. In Arua, we visited one of our customers and got to hear testimonials of how impactful our system has been to them and the community. Some of the clients I interacted with even extended our service to other branches of their institutions.
One year now at Village Energy! How has it been like?
It’s been a steep learning curve. I’ve really learnt a lot about solar and met a lot of remarkable people who were committed to changing the lives of Ugandans. I am proud to be a member of this tribe.
Village Energy at 10!
I’m very excited! Few start-ups make it to 10 years. I believe Village Energy is one of the pioneer solar companies in Uganda. I’m honoured to be part of this success story.
Last remarks to the Village Energy community.
I’m excited to be here. In the interactions with our partners it’s clear that there is a lot of interest in the solar sector in Uganda. Now is our time to power Uganda.