Nurse Lindiwe Magongo has been caring for 600 patients per week at her modest clinic near the capital of eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, for more than a year. Until recently, she had to do this, caring for both common health problems and coronavirus cases without the most fundamental health-care tool: hot clean water.
As we all know, handwashing, cleanliness, and sanitation, are critical in preventing the spread of illness. In this country of just over one million people, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease has claimed approximately 700 lives. However, before the pandemic, 82 percent of clinics in this small, landlocked country in southern Africa lacked this critical instrument. A international project has recently constructed a solar-powered handwashing facility in each clinic.
Magongo was beaming over the new handwashing station at her clinic’s entrance on a recent weekday. Hundreds of emaSwati, had gathered outside the clinic before it opened, and were now streaming in after washing their hands.
For her, as she explained, this is not just a heavy sink and a solar water heater (actually it is just that). This is a possibility to her. The hot water station, according to Magongo, is also used to clean the clinic and make tea for the employees. Patients are welcome to take hot water home with them.
Magongo is happy that while the new facility is helpin gher, the medical center is also saving a lot of money. This is due to the inexpensive to use and a “cure” for power outages. This service continues to function even if there are power outages.
VOA asked the Prime Minister Themba Masuku why this was not done earlier, but foreign donors were necessary. The answer was that first the seting up of the medical centers was necessary. Otherwise there would be no place to set up the current instalation. Even erecting the clinics was not an easy feat for the cash starved country. At the outset of the pandemic, even providing a steady supply of masks was a challenge.
Robert Frazer, an Australian solar energy entrepreneur, arrived in eSwatini for two weeks of meetings a year ago. Then came COVID, and as he languished in quarantine halfway around the world from his home in Sydney, he thought to himself, “Why not do something?”
This he did. His company installed 92 hot water solar stations in that year. The German government also pitched in providing additional money for the project.
Frazer insitsts that his company is a for-profit venture and he is not runningn a charity operation. He states that this project has paved the way for a $100 million solar-storage project in eSwatini.
Hand hygiene is a critical weapon against the infection, according to Health Minister Lizzy Nkosi, and one that eSwatini will require as it conducts its mass immunization program in the coming weeks.
The take away from this story is that we should never take hot water for granted. It is a precious comodity.