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Solar Vaccine Fridge – Ideal for health services in the remote region of Papua New Guinea

by | Apr 22, 2021 | New!, What CRMF Does

Dr. David Mills attending to a patient at the Kompiam Hospital. Photograph by: Annelie. Edsmyr

A recent report from the Director of Rural Health and Training Enga Baptist Health Services, Dr. David Mills, stated that vaccination remains one of the most cost-effective public health measures across the world. Yet in developing countries such as Papua New Guinea it can be an enormous challenge. Vaccines must be kept cold from the moment of manufacture to the point they are administered to the patient. But in PNG, the remoteness of the population and poor transport infrastructure plus the lack of power supplies makes maintaining the necessary cold chain extremely difficult.

The recent Sector Performance Review of PNG’s health system showed that on average, only 32% of children were receiving vaccines. Given that this figure includes children from cities and large towns, it is apparent that the situation for PNG’s rural population is much worse.

Upon receiving a majority of medical calls from the remote communities, Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship (CRMF) has also become increasingly aware of the basic needs for health equipment’s and the importance of vaccines provided to the remote communities of Papua New Guinea and so to facilitate some of these medical needs, CRMF has included in its stocks of items the new Surechill Vaccine Fridge which was introduced in 2019. The fridge is operated on solar power, thereby making it ideal for health clinics in the remote regions of PNG.

It comes as no surprise the increasing demand for the Surechill Vaccine Fridges as individuals and especially the remote health services are now aware that they can purchase a solar vaccine fridge from CRMF. The very first vaccine fridge was tested out in our workshop by CRMF technicians to confirm its functionality and just recently a request came from the Enga Baptist Health Services (EBHS) who aims to improve its cold chain by installing a series of solar powered vaccine fridges at various remote health centres and aid posts across the Kompiam-Ambum District.

With the support and assistance from the Rotary Club of Tenterden in the U.K., the Enga Baptist Health Services were able to purchase and install their very own solar vaccine fridge at the Marambe Health Centre.

Both images show the team at Enga Baptist Health Service offloading the vaccine fridge from the car at the roads end and then carrying it the rest of the way (about 1km) to the health centre – it weighed probably close to 200kg. Photography by: Dr. David Mills.

A feedback from Dr. David Mills on the recent installation said … the Surechill fridge performance is excellent… the vaccine fridge can hold a total of 24 ice packs in the freezer section and has a large storage space in the fridge for vaccines. It is a very large unit – much larger than the traditional fridge/freezers that they used in the past, owing to the large amount of water kept in the jacket. And once full, it is very heavy.

Dr. David Mills added, “… we are extremely pleased with its performance and hope that it will serve its purpose for many, many years to come. We are also extremely glad to be trialling the first of these units in PNG and hope that it becomes a model for other health services.”

Dr. David Mills medical students – Morriss and Linah (both students at UPNG) standing in front of the finished installation if the vaccine fridge at Marambe Health Centre.