One of the greatest breakthroughs in sustainable development discourse over the past decade has been the UN’s adoption of its ‘Global Goals,’ and the corresponding high-level recognition that sustainability is a universal issue. However, turning these good intentions into beneficial action at a local level brings unique challenges for each initiative when it comes to breaking new ground in untrodden territory.
When the World Health Organisation (WHO) began work to roll out immunisation programmes across Africa, ensuring the vaccines themselves were kept at optimum temperature during transit and storage was critical to these operations’ success.
As part of these programmes, vaccinations need to be transported for long periods of time across rough terrains, often in extremely hot climates, before being administered in remote areas that may suffer from a lack of reliable access to electricity. Seeing this challenge first hand, we put our engineering expertise to the test and pioneered off-grid, solar-powered vaccine refrigerators. This led to the foundation of Dulas as a leading renewable energy specialist, and since then we have continued to invest in research and development to help support the provision of much-needed working vaccines.
The WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan to Africa, for instance, aims to achieve 90% immunization coverage in each of its target countries by 2020. Maintaining a consistent storage temperature is critical if vaccines are to be effective and these targets realised. Temperature fluctuation, where temperatures rise or fall outside the recommended range, can reduce the rate of effectiveness and protection that vaccinations provide against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, among other diseases. A severe drop in temperature impacts the cell structure of live vaccines, meaning that, should they freeze, vaccines are completely useless.
Since 2001, Dulas have been developing Direct-Drive, solar-powered vaccine refrigerators and equipping them with our trademark Freeze-Free™ technology, which use phase-change materials (PCM) to protect the vaccines. This design replaced traditional water ice linings with organic material that provides a stable temperature as well and protection against freezing.
Our refrigeration systems are designed to be installed in the most remote of locations, where there is often little or no electrical infrastructure. In its place, this technology draws on solar power to provide a consistent source of power and keep vaccines at the desired temperature.
Building on more than 30 years of solar vaccine refrigerator manufacture and 15 years experience of solar direct drive development, Dulas’s smart solar energy control system ensure our refrigerators work in the poorest sunshine conditions and provide many days of stable vaccine storage with no sun at all.
We work closely with the UN and NGO community to continually improve and refine this technology. In 2016 we delivered refrigerators to over 30 countries, supporting numerous public health initiatives from the treatment of Ebola in West Africa to assisting in the fallout from a typhoon in the Philippines. By continuing to work closely with these organisations to understand the challenges they face, we continue to innovate our technology to meet global sustainable development targets.