Makeda and the Solar Suitcase

Makeda* is a Midwife in a rural Health Center much like those we are trying to light up in Hadiya.

Makeda is a 22 year old midwife working at a health center in rural Halaba Special Woreda, which borders Hadiya. Makeda was born in a Halaba town, not far from the health center where she works. After graduating from Hawassa Nursing and Midwifery College, she returned to begin her midwifery career. She likes assisting laboring mothers to give birth safely. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing a healthy baby.”

Makeda had been working for nearly a year and half in her health center with no electricity. Her only light at night was a small solar lightbulb that barely lit the delivery bed. “That one was not convenient to hold and neither did it give adequate light…we struggled a lot by hand torches and other light sources. We often refered patients to the next facility because of inadequacy of light.” Makeda struggled even more on weekends when the staffing is often only her and one clinical nurse.

In March 2014, WEEMA installed a Solar Suitcase in the Labor & Delivery room of Makeda’s health center. Makeda says her experience since the installation has been very different. Recently she experienced a night at work when she again found herself delivering a baby alone: While attending overnight delivery, I was faced with a complicated labor where the baby developed Hydrocephaly. It was very scary and the labor took longer than expected. My coworker nurse was sick and I had no one to assist me. Because of the solar suite case and the overhead light, I was able to monitor the progress and also diagnose the case. Managing such a case in our health center would have been unthinkable without the solar suitcase. It increased my confidence and I waited, gave fundal pressure gently and finally succeeded.”

The number of women in Halaba deciding to give birth within a Health Center instead of at home has also changed significantly. In the six months before the Solar Suitcase, there were 51 deliveries at Makeda’s health center. In the same amount of time after the Solar Suitcase was installed, the number of deliveries in the Health Center more than doubled and 95% of them were at night!