The We Care Solar “Solar Suitcase” is a solar lighting unit designed especially for labor & delivery facilities in rural areas that do not have electricity. It provides much needed medical lighting in the nighttime so midwives can see and mothers are not giving birth in the dark.
WEEMA International brought the first Solar Suitcase to Ethiopia in 2013 and since then installed a total of 39 in health facilities without electricity. This year, WEEMA staff conducted follow-up visits, including interviews with the staff, to the oldest 10 Solar Suitcases in Kembata Tembaro Zone and newest 29 in Hadiya Zone and Halaba Special Woreda. The Solar Suitcases are continuing to function well; not only providing lifesaving light for mothers and newborns, but also improved morale for health workers. The following are some excerpts from interviews with health workers:
Wondo Health Center: “One time one pregnant mother came to our health center around her expected date of delivery. They brought the mother by carrying her with traditional stretcher and she was in labor for so long before coming to the health center so the baby had started to come out before she reaches the delivery room. So we made them to lay her on the veranda and took out our light 2 (postnatal room light) to outside and deliver the baby there. If we couldn’t deliver the baby right there the baby might have died since the cord had strangulated his neck. We were able to save the lives of the mother and the baby because of the Solar Suitcase light.”
Sheshera Health Center: “It has decreased the workload for us. And it has decreased frustration and stress.”
Ambukuna Health Center: “Mothers feel very happy and encourage others to deliver at the health center. In fact their delivery is more memorable from their previous deliveries since they gave birth in the light. ”
Hawora Health Center: “Previously we couldn’t even cut the cord properly because of the darkness. Now we can work clearly in the darkness because of the Solar Suitcase. We are able to manage or refer mothers properly during the night time. The quality of our work has improved.”
Annagero Health Center: “Mothers can see their babies immediately after delivery. Before the installation of the Solar Suitcase they used to wait until the morning.”
Kacha Health Center: “We were able save the life of the infant by performing neonatal resuscitation and perform appropriate care for the mother…The infant was in distress due to prolonged labor before the mother arrived at the health center. We delivered her baby safely and managed the mother appropriately. If we didn’t have the light like previous times I would not have started the procedure in the dark and taken a risk. This is how the Solar Suitcase has changed our work.”
More Solar Suitcase follow-up will be conducted as part of the “Light Up Hadiya” project in early 2017. Stay tuned for updates and more data.