Solar Suitcase Saves Mothers' Lives
In health clinics and hospitals in many low-income countries, midwives and surgeons are often forced to work in near-darkness or with candles and kerosene lanterns. “Lack of a regular and reliable power supply severely impairs the ability to deliver care at an estimated 300,000 health facilities around the world,” according to Dr. Laura Stachel, a Berkeley OB/GYN.
During a 2008 trip to Zaria in northern Nigeria, Dr. Stachel discovered that health clinics and even hospitals didn’t have a regular power supply for a large part of the day. She saw midwives delivering babies by kerosene lanterns. "I was seeing the sickest patients I'd ever seen in rooms not as well equipped as an American garage," she said in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "I would be there at night and think, 'I'm just here to watch these women die.'"
Nigeria has 2 percent of the world’s population, but a disproportionate 10 percent of maternal deaths, according the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Stachel returned home and worked with her husband, a renewable energy expert, to develop the Solar Suitcase.
“Using solar technology to power LED lights, mobile communications, blood bank refrigerators and other medical devices means women can deliver babies more safely and hospitals need not turn people away at night,” adds Dr. Stachel, founder of We Care Solar (Women’s Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity). The obstetric Solar Suitcase includes medical quality lighting, fetal monitors, power for charging cell phones and small devices, and headlamps with rechargeable batteries. The suitcase only costs about $1,500 and is a durable waterproof case that doubles as a cabinet that can be mounted on the wall. The award winning Solar Suitcases will be in operation in 14 countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, and Haiti, by the end of the year.
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