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Samsung recently launched its solar powered health centre model in Cape Town, marking the start of what it says will be a large-scale medical initiative across Africa. The mobile centres are built for use in remote rural areas, and intended to eliminate the economic and geographic barriers that prevent people across Africa from obtaining quality medical treatment.
The solar-powered health centre is designed to reach as many people as possible, as regularly as possible. Mounted on a truck and manned by qualified medical professionals, the centres will move from one area to the next providing a range of eye, ear, blood and dental medical services to the public.
“There is still much to be done in South Africa to educate people about the importance of basic preventative medical screening and treatment. What many see as minor health issues will not only get worse over time, but will affect other aspects of quality of life. The child that cannot see properly cannot learn properly,” says Dr Mandlalele Mhinga, medical expert, and Trustee and active member of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. “Mobile solutions help address this issue by making medical services accessible to more people in rural areas, and educating them about health care at the same time. When corporates come on board and partner with government by using their unique expertise to contribute to a better society – we see powerful results”.
Samsung says that it wants to reach one-million people through its solar powered health centres by 2015 — as part of its broader goal to positively impact the lives of five-million people in Africa by 2015.
According to the World Bank, more than 60% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas. These people often lack the time and resources to reach clinics for proactive medical care, and particularly if they are ill and unable to make long journeys. In South Africa, only approximately 20% of the population is served by private medical schemes, with the public health sector struggling to cater to the remaining 80% of the population.
“We have been providing medical services to rural areas in Africa for a few years now through our annual Employee Volunteer Programmes”, says Ntutule Tshenye, Business-to-Government and Corporate Citizenship Lead for Samsung Africa. “This experience has shown us how desperately medical treatment is needed across the continent, and inspired us to develop a sustainable and innovative solution to reach the people who need it most. While our CSR strategy in Africa is largely focused on education, our efforts to enrich lives will not be felt if people’s basic needs, such as access to healthcare, are not met.”
A large focus will be placed on screening people to establish conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts. The centres will also focus on educating communities about health issues and encouraging people to take tests as preventative measures.
Medical products will reportedly be provided by Samsung’s partners on this project, including the Department of Health and pharmaceutical companies. Other partners will include medical universities, and organisations that are involved in health care like World Vision, and Doctors without Borders.
This isn’t the first big solar-powered initiative by Samsung on the continent either. Last year it launched a solar-powered computer lab housed in a shipping container.