To ensure a sustainable and secure laundry service at Lugala hospital in Tanzania, Engineers without borders is designing and implementing a new system based on solar panels.
Lugala Lutheran Hospital is a nonprofit hospital in Ulanga West, founded in 1949 by the Danish Lutheran Mission, Ulanga-Kilombero. The catchment area of the hospital includes Ulanga west and Kilombero south, with a population of 164 000 people. In March 2014, the official number of beds was 157 and 162 people were working at the hospital. The patients merely pay a small part of the actual costs, making the hospital dependent on contributions from the Tanzanian government and organizations from all over the world.
Today the hospital laundry is washed by hand. The water used is heated with firewood and a solar heater. Two problems were recently identified:
The temperatures achieved with the solar heaters were not high enough (only around 50 °C) to secure disinfection of the laundry. Therefore the improved stoves (which are in bad condition) had to be taken into use to heat the water to higher temperatures with firewood. There is no system to control if the water is hot enough to disinfect the laundry. Since operation textiles, sheets and working clothes are washed at the facility, there is a risk that this can affect the hospital care. A wish has been expressed to see if it can be possible to use another type of solar heater or another type of renewable energy source. Moreover the solution should be cost effective to run and maintain in order to support a cost effective health care.
The fact that wood is scarce in the area could lead to a deforestation problem. There are some old washing machines in the house but they aren't in use since they demand too high power, no electricity is available in the laundry and they need to be supplied with heated water. The work in the laundry is performed by hand and it can be heavy work for the two ladies working there. The work involves cleaning textile contaminated with blood and it is therefore of great importance that the work is performed in a secure way with limited risk of spread of infection.
Engineers without borders project group has since 2015 designed a new heating system that uses new solar panels and a water heater. The system is being implemented during February 2017 through support from sponsors ÅF, Armatec and Climat 80.