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Engineers without Borders Madrid / Solar-powered communications for health centres in the Upper Amazon

Area of work:

Health care for people living in remote and inaccessible areas of the Upper Amazon in Peru is provided by a system of small health centres in the forest. These have neither telephones, nor grid electricity. Health workers had no means of communicating with colleagues or hospitals in towns, and had to travel long distances to get help.

In 2002, in collaboration with the Catholic University of Peru, the Madrid Association of ‘Engineers without Borders‘ (ISF) installed a series of VHF radio systems in 39 health centres in the Upper Amazon. Each system is powered by a solar PV array, and has a radio transceiver connected to an on-site computer to provide both voice and data communication.

Health workers were then able to speak to colleagues, send emails and access information from the internet through intermediaries in Lima. This ability to communicate greatly improved health care in the region. Access to medical information and experts enabled health workers to provide better diagnosis and treatment. Urgent evacuation of patients could be organised more quickly, and a hospital prepared for a patient’s arrival. Epidemiological surveillance in the area improved, and health workers had the opportunity for further studies through distance-training courses. Between them, the systems supported the health care of about 50,000 people.

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