Content in review

Solar for Health

Let me know when the updated version of the UNDP Health Systems website is online:

Saving lives
Saving money
Saving the environment

Health facilities need power. Clinics, maternity wards, operating rooms, medical warehouses, and laboratories rely on electricity to power the lights, refrigerate vaccines, and operate life-saving medical devices. The inability to carry out these essential services puts lives at risk.

All too often, particularly in remote areas, health facilities face significant power shortages. A World Health Organization (WHO) review revealed that one in four health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa had no access to electricity, while only 28% of health facilities and 34% of hospitals had what could be called “reliable” access to electricity (without prolonged interruptions in the past week).

Contribution to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Solar for Health can make a significant contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ by reaching remote and under-served communities. Specifically, it can help countries in their efforts to achieve SDGs 3, 7, 13 and 17: good health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, climate action and partnerships.

Broader development benefits include the creation of green jobs and the development of local manufacturing and markets for solar power. By training women as solar technicians to install and maintain solar panels, the initiative can also help countries advance SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.


Quality health services

Solar systems provide a stable, clean and reliable energy supply, even in the most remote locations, meaning more patients can access the health services they need.
Show more
Quality healthcare requires a dependable source of power for multiple purposes, including temperature and hygrometry controls, adequate lighting systems, refrigeration, cold rooms and IT networks for efficient stock and management of information.
Show less

Climate resilient health systems

Renewable energy is a means by which health systems can increase resilience to the challenges presented by climate change, including extreme weather events, droughts, and other events affecting the traditional power supply.
Show more
The WHO Operational Framework for building climate resilient health systems highlights the need to take a broader perspective to the challenge of climate change, including a focus on renewable energy in health facilities and utilizing innovative technologies.
Show less

Reduced carbon emissions

Energy access plays a vital role in enabling health care delivery, but it can also inflict significant environmental harm unless it includes an explicit focus on progressively shifting to renewable energy and substituting fossil-based sources.
Show more
The decommissioning of highly polluting and noisy diesel generators considerably improves the local environment around health facilities. The installation of standardised solar PV systems under the Solar for Health initiative will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 250K tons per year.
Show less

Cheaper energy

Solar energy results in lower power bills for health facilities. These vital budget savings can then be reinvested to support other priority health programmes or infrastructure.
Show more
Solar power also generates a rapid return on investment. We estimate a 100 per cent return on investment within 2 to 3.5 years, on average, when health facilities with unreliable energy sources are installed with solar power.
Show less

UNDP Delivers

UNDP has significant experience and expertise in building resilient and sustainable systems for health, including the delivery of large, complex health programmes with the Global Fund and other partners. i Besides, UNDP carries out extensive work to promote sustainable energy solutions.

Quality assurance and Standardized solutions

UNDP’s expertise in providing project quality assurance means we have experienced teams that deliver day-to-day assistance, while also coordinating across countries and acting as a link with donors. In the past two years, UNDP has piloted and demonstrated several solar PV solutions in the health sector of Libya, Namibia, South Sudan, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

For hospitals and other large health structures (hospitals and clinics), we deliver tailor-made solar PV solutions which ensure uninterrupted power supply for the critical departments of the hospitals such as; maternity, A&E, surgery, pharmacy and laboratory.


Countries Health facilities Installed Capacity kWh
Zimbabwe 405 4813
Sudan 62 540
Zambia 16 750
South Sudan 33 90
Namibia 5 25
Libya 5 350

Scalable solutions

Energy needs of the health sector are often exponential. Thus, Solar for Health is designed to ensure flexibility, meaning that it can be initiated with relatively small contributions and scaled up as funding becomes available and additional needs are identified.

Examples of Solar for Health Projects

Supporting HIV clinics in Zimbabwe

In 2017 with the financial support of the Global Fund, UNDP installed solar PV systems in 405 Health facilities across Zimbabwe with the installed capacity of 5 MWh.
Show more Show less

Before the Solar for health project, many health facilities in Zimbabwe had access to electricity only four hours a day. With solar installations in place, they now have power 24/7 and patients are receiving the care they need, when they need it. As a consequence, solar for health has enhanced access to quality health services, notably for children under five (e.g. vaccination) and pregnant mothers who attend the health facilities for delivery. Additionally, the solar energy generated is used to maintain the cold chain and ensure the quality of medicines and laboratory reagents remains constant.

Solar panels will also facilitate water pumping and water purification – a pivotal achievement in a country in which water-borne diseases are the major killers of children.

Effective warehousing in Zambia

In Zambia, UNDP has been working in close partnership with Medical Stores Limited (MSL), an autonomous government agency mandated to receive, store and distribute pharmaceutical health products across the country.
Show more Show less

MSL has faced regular power interruptions in the past, affecting the effective running of warehouses, including the refrigeration of medicines and vaccines.

With funding received from the Norwegian Emergency Preparedness System (NOREPS) and Global Fund, UNDP has supported MSL to install a solar powered energy system, combined with an energy efficient temperature control system covering 3000 m2 storage space. With the solar panels in place, MSL can ensure the effective running of its operations, even when there is no power from the national hydro-powered grid.

This is vital to providing quality health services to the Zambian population, as interruptions in power supply had previously led to delays in the processing of requests from health facilities across the country. Furthermore, the solar power system has also ensured cold chain pharmaceutical items remain stored at the required temperatures.

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis and can drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone.


For more information on Solar for Health please contact

  • +41795544268