Amongst the chaos and construction that currently exists in Syria, there is a small ray of hope for those who have been injured or fallen sick, by the constant fighting, devastation and destruction. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) has recently launched its first solar hospital in Syria which is designed to reduce the hospital’s reliance on diesel which is expensive, unreliable and environmentally unfriendly.
The hospital is located somewhere in the north of the Syria but its exact name and location is kept secret by the UOSSM due to safety concerns. It represents an example of a situation in which modern, environmentally friendly technologies have been used to empower medical professionals and local citizens and enable life-saving medical care and facilities to be provided.
According to Reuters, the hospital runs on 480 solar panels built nearby to the hospital that are linked to an energy storage system. The hospital is also connected to diesel generators which can supplement the solar energy generated and take over in the event that solar energy is cut off. In the event of a complete diesel fuel outage, “The solar system can fully power the intensive care unit, operating rooms and emergency departments for up to 24 hours, which is 20 to 30 percent of the hospital’s energy cost.” The solar hospital forms part of the UOSSM’s Syria Solar Initiative
Project Director of the Syria Solar Initiative, Tarek Makdissi, writing for The Telegraph says he believes “Syrian civil society activists have long been champions of democracy in Syria, seeking participatory and localized forms of governance and resource control, citizen control over human rights documentation, practicing freedom of media expression despite enormous risks, and carving out space for the exercise of democracy in a country ruled and destroyed by force.”
“Solar energy in this context is another democratizing force, which empower[s] the civil society in impactful ways” he adds. Given the ongoing civil war, which at present shows few signs of ending, this solar powered hospital may well be the difference between life and death for many of its current and future patients.
In 2015, diesel supplies to Syria were suddenly cut resulting in many Syrian hospitals not being able to continue operations as per usual even with the hardships of war. Makdissi believes the hospital is also increasing the ability of local Syrian communities to be more resilient. He says “To be resilient is to be independent and to be independent you need to have control of your own resources … This project is really increasing the independence and resilience of local communities.”
Syrian hospitals have not escaped the brutal damage caused by the country’s civil war. Out of the 107 hospitals outside the control of the government or ISIL, recently surveyed by UOSSM, it was found that they had been attacked by aerial bombardments seven times and each hospital had been hit at least once. Furthermore, in December 2016 alone, they were (innocent) one of these hospitals was struck from the air every 17.5 hours. As a result of this the UOSSM has plans to develop more solar hospitals across Syria so that increased numbers of people can access desperately needed medical care and services.
Founded in January 2012, UOSSM International “Provides humanitarian and medical assistance to all Syrian victims of war regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation.” Member organisations – consisting of humanitarian, non-governmental and medical organisations from the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey – pool their resources together and coordinate projects to provide “Impartial relief and medical care to victims of war in Syria.”
Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on September 25, 2017.