Giving Compass' Take:

• A worker from Doctors Without Borders writes about his experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo trying to deliver vital medicine and treatments to sick people in a hospital off the grid. His team looked into whether solar power could better supply the energy needed for oxygen machines.

• The combination of ingenuity and efficiency in a humanitarian effort serves as an inspiration to everyone working in this space to seek out sustainable solutions. What role can donors play in supporting solar power in developing countries? 

• Here's how solar power keeps water flowing in Malawi.

On my first posting with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I worked as a technical logistician in Shamwana, a remote village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 10 years of providing medical care, surgical, reproductive and mental health services, the time had come for MSF to hand the running of the hospital over to the Congolese Ministry of Health.

There was one problem.

The hospital was extremely off-grid, and like many MSF hospitals and clinics, relied on deliveries of diesel fuel to run the generators. In MSF’s absence, these deliveries would not be sustainable. But without electricity from the generator, the hospital would not be able to turn on the lights, let alone the oxygen concentrators (medical-grade oxygen that is vital in saving lives, but consumes a lot of energy).

In the months before MSF was due to hand the running of the hospital over to the Ministry of Health, we had an idea. After a lot of phone calls, a scramble for supplies and a race against the clock, we managed to install a set of solar panels on the roof of the hospital, with batteries to store the energy. It was enough to provide electricity for lights, medical oxygen, and to operate a "cold-chain" — the refrigeration necessary to keep some medicines effective.

The Shamwana project got me thinking. If it could work there, could solar power help to provide other hospitals with a sustainable oxygen supply? A team of us decided to investigate.

Read the full article about how solar power can deliver much-needed health care in places off the grid by Per-Erik Eriksson at Doctors Without Borders.