Wednesday, 25 February 2015

How LG is giving the children of West Pokot a new chance at life, one fridge at a time

In Kenya’s arid north, decades of neglect by successive governments have created a difficult living environment in which problems come in multiples.So if it is not the scorching conditions that make life unbearable and the land unproductive unless it is irrigated, there is the incessant insecurity in a heavily militarized environment in which some communities and their cross-border neighbors still regard cattle theft as a mandatory rite of passage for their youth. 

An LG Official receives a gift from a West Pokot resident.
Add to this the generally sparse infrastructure, which is characterized by poor roads and low coverage by grid electricity and you have a scenario where, in Shakespearean parlance, life is often “nasty, short and brutish.” And this grim prospect has not spared the most vulnerable and powerless part of the population: the children of West Pokot and their mothers.

It was some of these “wrongs” that LG sought to rectify when it made a donation of five solar-powered refrigerators to World Vision, a non-governmental organization (NGO) active in the area, last November. The fridges were meant for the use of some seven health facilities which were then having difficulties in keeping their stock of food and vaccines fresh and usable. The immediate target was to offer a cold chain to store vaccines to enable more children under the age of five to get immunization. Also targeted in this consumer driven partnership were pregnant and lactating mothers.

The solar-powered refrigerators are a powerful example of demand-driven innovation by LG to provide answers to real problems in society and also active collaboration with communities to provide sustainable answers to such challenges. Besides most parts of West Pokot County being off the national electricity grid, even those that are served, like other parts of Kenya, are prone to long outages and erratic supply.  In such a situation, ordinary refrigerators are likely to be of no use. But West Pokot has at least something going for it; long spells of hot sunshine that can be harnessed through the technology provided by LG, to ensure that the children of West Pokot and their mothers have a more realistic stab at life than was hitherto possible.

Available statistics from the Government provide a picture of real need. Out of every 100 children born in the vast and arid county, only 56 get immunized, a level that is way below the thresholds set by the World Health Organization (WHO). In tandem, infant and under-five mortality remain relatively high.When LG unveiled its Power Cut Evercool refrigerator, which gives users seven hours of cooling in the fridge compartment and 10 hours of the same in the freezer without power, it was easy to imagine that the firm had reached the apex of its innovation. But not so LG. The solar-powered fridge is a major improvement on the Power Cut Evercool variant and evidence, if ever any was needed, that innovation is a constant, indeed a way of life at LG.In a country where immunization campaigns, especially against contagious diseases like Tetanus and Polio, have almost become constant due to regular outbreaks, the solar-powered fridge is just what the doctor ordered for counties like West Pokot. And with it, the children of this county have received a new, more realistic chance at life and for the community, it’s very future.

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