By Vijay Jayaraj
When the political elite call for Africa and other developing nations to adopt absurd green energy objectives, consider that they already have blood on their hands.
Those discouraging the use of fossil fuels in Africa in favor of wind and solar have played a direct role in high morbidity and mortality rates on the continent. Homes without electricity for lights and refrigerators, businesses without sufficient power to improve productivity, and millions languishing in abject poverty — all due to a lack of energy that otherwise would be available from the much-demonized fuels of coal, oil and natural gas.
Approximately half of Africans cannot get electricity when they want it. Only 14.3 percent of people in the Central African Republic have access to electricity. The combined production of power of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa equals the production of a single western economy like Spain.
The most devastating effect of this energy poverty is felt in health care centers, 60 percent of which in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity. According to the United States Agency for International Development, 100,000 public health facilities in the region have no access to reliable electricity.
“In 2012, 150 babies on oxygen concentrators at a hospital in Jinja died after utility company UMEME Uganda Limited turned off the electricity with no prior notice. In 2015, Kiboga District Hospital was without power for over a month,” reports an article from the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in Uganda.
“Doctors said they were unable to provide even basic first aid such as sutures because they could not sterilize tools,” the article continues. “Vaccines and blood went bad because of the lack of refrigeration. Laboratories could not perform diagnostic services without power. The maternity wing was in complete darkness, and Cesarean sections could not be performed. Mothers died on their way to the capital Kampala or private clinics to access emergency obstetric care.”
This situation is not unique to the sub-Sahara. Even the advanced economy of South Africa has faced regular power blackouts and load shedding due to mismanagement by the state utility ESKOM, whose policies are now influenced by the climate movement’s hostility to fossil fuels.
In South Africa, most of the 420 hospitals and 3,000 clinics – all state-run – do not have reliable backup generators. The chairman of the South African Medical Association said, “(T)here is a huge possibility that vulnerable people going into (an operating room), having a child at a hospital or in ICU could face serious complications because of load shedding.”
One hospital in July put all surgeries on hold because of an unstable supply of electricity.
Doctors are using lights from their phones to perform surgeries and procedures in case of emergencies.
“In cases where there is a power outage, they will do their level best if they are in the middle of a procedure so that a patient can survive, especially when it is obvious that the patient’s life can be compromised if they don’t intervene and electricity won’t come back,” says Sibongiseni Delihlazo, spokesperson for the Democratic Nursing Organization of SA.
But why rely on backup when the state electricity utility ESKOM can utilize coal? Because ESKOM has committed to abandon coal in the name of climate change.
Africa’s crisis cannot be addressed without affordable and reliable energy. “Nearly $20 billion are required for universal electrification across Sub-Saharan Africa, with about $10 billion annually needed for West and Central Africa,” says Riccardo Puliti, World Bank vice president for infrastructure.
The problem is that new investments are being directed to expensive and unreliable wind and solar projects when coal is the obvious solution to Africa’s energy poverty. The African Development Bank has stopped new fundings for coal projects. So have dozens of other aid agencies based in Europe and North America.
Africans need electricity now. Not someday in the future, after their chance to survive a hospital surgery is denied by a policy maker enamored with fanciful visions of a carbon-free world.