Information taken from www.wecaresolar.org
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WE CARE Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity. The Problem
Maternal mortality worldwide accounts for more than half a million deaths a year; 99 percent of these occur in underdeveloped countries. For every maternal death, at least 20 women suffer severe complications from childbirth. Major causes of maternal death include obstetric hemorrhage (massive bleeding from childbirth), obstructive labor (labor where the mother is unable to deliver the baby), eclampsia (life threatening seizures related to high blood pressure), and sepsis (widespread infection). These emergencies cannot always be predicted, nor are they always preventable. However, with prompt, appropriate and reliable medical care, they are unlikely to result in loss of life.
Sporadic electricity impairs the operation of surgical wards, delivery wards, essential hospital equipment, and hospital communications. This compromises the ability of Nigerian health workers to provide safe, appropriate and timely medical care. Labor and delivery nurses cannot quickly notify on-call physicians of emergencies. Midwives and physicians are forced to make treatment decisions without the benefit of necessary diagnostic tests. Obstetric procedures and emergency surgeries are conducted under grossly suboptimal conditions, and can have tragic consequences. The photo of the kerosene lantern on our home page was taken in the maternity ward of one hospital – this was the only light available in the ward!
A Powerful Solution
In 2009, we designed a photovoltaic system to power lighting, medical equipment, a blood bank refrigerator, and communication equipment in a major municipal hospital in Northern Nigeria. This system targets maternal health care by powering the following:
We also designed a portable solar electric system that fits in a suitcase. The “WE CARE Solar Suitcase” powers overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones or two-way radios, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. The first deployment of these systems occurred in June 2009. Now these systems have been introduced in fourteen countries, including Haiti, to aid medical relief teams after the 2010 earthquake, and Liberia, where we worked with the World Health Organization on a study of the effects of electricity on maternal health outcomes.
Our Solar Suitcases are user-friendly, robust, durable, and nearly maintenance-free. They work in mobile settings or can be easily installed in existing hospitals and clinics lacking reliable source of power. Improved surgical lighting, enhanced usage of existing medical equipment, and the support of mobile telecommunication systems reduces delays in providing care, and increases the capacity of health workers to care for patients with obstetric complications. In addition, workers report more confidence in performing skilled care, and no longer fear night duty.