Power outages are common in rural areas of Eastern Ukraine partly due to the worn out power lines infrastructure and also because of harsh weather conditions in the winter and autumn. For a hospital power outages are not just a matter of inconvenience. The lack of a reliable energy supply can and does have a drastic impact on a doctor’s ability to save children’s lives.
Years of mining have turned the town of Bryanka in Eastern Ukraine into an environmental hotspot leaving a heavy footprint not only on the environment through increased greenhouse gas emissions and local air, water, and land pollution but also negatively impacting people’s lives. Coal dust stirred during the mining process and from transport of coal can cause severe respiratory problems to people and in some extreme cases can even lead to death. The recent economic crisis has affected Ukraine more strongly than other countries and it aggravates the situation. High levels of unemployment, low incomes, decreased life expectancy, and the growth of infant mortality rate and proliferation of communicable diseases are just a few challenges that Bryanka residents face as a result. Women and children are particularly prone to suffer from negative health due to living in areas affected by mining.
There was an urgent need for solution to the problem of power outages at Bryanka children’s hospital. Since the hospital is a public organization it has been constantly underfunded meaning that the solution had to be cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and sustainable at the same time.
“We wanted to buy a diesel electric-power generator but had to give up this idea,” says Elena Zhevaga , the hospital’s supply manager. “This is a children’s hospital. We couldn’t have the constant smell and noise here. Besides, the exhaust from the diesel electric-power generator is harmful and it releases CO2 into the air – and we have enough of that anyway here,” she adds.
The environmental NGO “Zeleny Svit” (Green World) has turned to UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme for the solution to the problem of preventing power outages while at the same time providing a source of clean, affordable, and reliable energy for the hospital.
The solution was to power the hospital using wind energy. It was a joint decision of the hospital, the mayor’s office, and the NGO ‘Zeleny Svit’ to purchase and install a 5 KwH wind power generator capable of producing up to 5 KwH of energy, enough to keep the hospital running for 5 hours in the event of a power failure.
The Small Grants Programme supported the initiative with 50 000 USD because it was not only helping people of Bryanka but it was providing global environmental benefits by reducing carbon dioxide emissions through the use of wind energy. In the broader scheme of things, the Small Grants Programme project helped to raise people’s awareness about climate change and demonstrated local solutions for global challenges. The GEF Small Grant Programme has been deeply committed to promote environmental protection and support initiatives of non-governmental and community based organizations, demonstrating that community action can respond to people’s needs and promote global environmental benefits at the same time.
This grass-roots initiative was also supported by the Lugansk state environmental department because it contributed to local environmental strategies and demonstrated an integrated approach to ecology, economy and health care.
The solution to the environmental and economical problems at the Byyanka Children’s hospital was always there – blowing in the wind.