Welcome to the Shirati Hospital Energy Project (SHEP) website

Shirati Hospital, Mara District, Tanzania Main street Shirati village, Mara District, Tanzania

Shirati Hospital, a large rural hospital serving an area of 200,000 people on the shores of Lake Victoria in Northeastern Tanzania, is struggling against the odds to save lives in an area with a lot of problems: poverty, AIDS/HIV, mosquitos, endemic malaria, TB, schistosomiasis, contaminated water; and a seriously underequipped hospital with almost no running water,no hot water at all, and - most vitally -- no constant supply of power. Although it receives erratic but generous donations of medicine and basic medical equipment, the frequent power cuts hitting the whole region undermine even the best intentions.


The situation is difficult throughout the hospital, but dire in the Operating Theatre, where emergency operations are carried out most nights.When the power goes in the middle of a pitch-black African night, the three doctors and attendant OT nurses and technicians often have to carry on operating by torches powered by car batteries, and when these run down, by the light of mobile phones.

A group of us visited Shirati in 2006. The sun blazed hotly every day. Together with Shirati Hospital personnel, we decided to look into using the great availability of sun in this village, so close to the equator to power the lights and equipment in the hospital's Operating Theatre.

Main street Shirati village, Mara District, Tanzania

Back in Edinburgh, we found several engineers connected to Napier University who felt they could help; and an Edinburgh-based charity, EngineerAid, who offered to take our project under their wing. Last June, two of these engineers, my daughter (a student architect) and I went out to Shirati again.

Together with the Hospital's Chief Engineer, we did a complete energy audit of the hospital, noting every light bulb, every bit of energy-utilizing equipment. From this audit, the engineers have designed a solar energy system, sourced between here and Tanzania, which will guarantee the Operating Theatre (and perhaps one day the whole hospital) a constant and uninterrupted source of power. Hot water will be a by-product of this system.

The project has been provisionally costed at £40,000. Because of the perceived urgency of the situation, we have set ourselves the goal of returning to Shirati Hospital in June 2009, depending on achieving our budget target by April.

Group of children A babyMain street Shirati village, Mara District, Tanzania