Solar refrigerators boost access to vaccines in Gombe health clinics

Major challenge solved in vaccine preservation

Samuel Kaalu
UNICEF Nigeria/2017/Kaalu
16 May 2017

Gombe, Northeast Nigeria, 16 May 2017 – Solar-powered refrigerators donated by UNICEF have solved a major challenge in vaccine preservation in Gombe state health clinics. These refrigerators ensure that vaccines remain potent from manufacturer to child. They provide the necessary stable temperature that makes it easy to store and distribute vaccines to health facilities in Gombe State.

Prior to the installation of the solar-powered refrigerators, vaccines at the clinics were preserved in ice-lined refrigerators which were inadequate for vaccine storage due to irregular power supply. Thus, the health facilities in Gombe Local Government Area were in short supply of vaccines due to a lack of efficient preservation equipment.

Yusuf Mohammed, Gombe Local Government’s Immunization Officer, recalled how this challenge affected the uptake of vaccines in the communities. He said, ‘’Sometimes, mothers who brought their children for immunization were asked to go back home and return another day because of the absence of vaccines. Some mothers never showed up again, leading to dropouts which ultimately affected the number of children vaccinated.”

With the installation of solar-powered refrigerators donated by UNICEF through funds provided by the UK National Committee for UNICEF, vaccine preservation at the Town Maternity Clinic in Gombe is no longer a challenge. An installed solar-powered refrigerator preserves one month’s stock of routine immunization vaccines under safe conditions for 27 health facilities in Gombe Local Government Area. The solar-powered refrigerator also produces ice packs which are used for the transportation of vaccines from the cold store at the Town Maternity Clinic to other health facilities in Gombe Local Government Area. 

UNICEF Nigeria/2017/Kaalu
Yusuf Mohammed, Gombe Local Government Area (LGA) Immunization Officer, explains how the UNICEF-donated Solar Refrigerator helps to preserve and ensure vaccine availability at the Town Maternity Clinic, Gombe.

The availability of vaccines at Town Maternity Clinic encourages mothers to bring their children to the clinic for vaccination. Mothers can now walk into the clinic at any hour of the day, seven days a week, and have their children vaccinated. One of the mothers who came to the clinic, 30 year-old Amina Mohammed, brought her two month-old child, Inuwa for vaccination. When Amina gave birth to Inuwa, he did not receive the Hepatitis B vaccine because it was not available. However, now that the vaccine is available, Amina has gotten her son vaccinated.

The UNICEF Chief of Health, John Agbor, asserted the importance of immunization. “Immunization is the most cost-effective way of saving the lives of children. With funding provided by donors, and in collaboration with other partners, UNICEF will continue to support the government to ensure that all eligible children are immunized,” he said.

The UNICEF-donated solar-powered refrigerators are also contributing to vaccine availability in other health centres across the Local Government, and health workers have begun to see an increase in vaccine uptake in the communities.