Evan Werlin CdeP 2004: Power Up Gambia

The lights began to flicker and the air stopped circulating in the operating room. The surgeon looked at us and said, “Africa will only be free when we can harness the energy of the sun.” The energy reserve at Sulayman Jungkung General Hospital (SJGH) in The Gambia had run out. The remaining patients would have to wait until the surgeon returned for his next weekly visit.
This past summer I traveled with two fellow medical students to The Gambia, West Africa, on behalf of Power Up Gambia (PUG), an organization working to transform the country’s health care by providing reliable electricity and water to health clinics and hospitals through the use of solar panels.
We traveled with a Gambian nurse, Hassan, to eight rural health clinics throughout the country. At each location, we met with villagers to assess the barriers they face in accessing health care and how PUG might be able to help. During the remainder of our time we worked at SJGH, the site of PUG’s first solar panel installment, to evaluate how the new source of energy has transformed the clinic. I had taken for granted the basic services such as lights and running water that are vital for providing medical care. To ask a nurse to deliver a baby by candlelight is unthinkable by the standards we know, but it is a reality faced in The Gambia.

Six months after my return from The Gambia, I have not forgotten the people I met or the problems I witnessed. I will continue to work to help bring more reliable energy to health clinics in The Gambia from afar and look forward to the time when I can return as a physician.

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