Name of Project: Solar Suitcases
Partner: WE CARE Solar
2013 – Present
Maternal mortality in Ethiopia is one of the highest in the world- and 90% of these deaths are preventable. Lives can be saved if women deliver in a health facility with with skilled birth attendant. To address this issue, the Ethiopian government has built many new health centers throughout Ethiopia but a significant number of these facilities still lack electricity. Without this essential power, healthcare providers often struggle to attend deliveries in the dark. Medical procedures are sometimes done under the glow of a cell phone. Consistent, reliable light can save lives by providing medical professionals the visualization they need at night.
The US based non-profit, WE CARE Solar, has developed an award-winning portable solar suitcase that provides health workers with highly efficient medical lighting and power. Designed for longevity and harsh environments, solar suitcases have a lasting impact on communities in rural Ethiopia. These suitcases are designed to be safe, easy to use and low maintenance. Each solar suitcase contains high-efficiency LED lighting, a fetal doppler, 80 watts of solar panels, 12 amp-hour battery, and universal cell phone charger.
WEEMA works closely with the local Health Departments to identify health facilities with no electricity and in most need of the Solar Suitcase. A representative from the local Health Office has joined our team on every installation, so as to also participate in the training with the health facility staff and help monitor optimum use and care of the Solar Suitcase.
- To introduce innovative, cost effective technology in order to provide improved maternal and neonatal care in rural health institutions.
- Fill gaps in health infrastructure by transporting, delivering and installing Solar Suitcases to Health Centers lacking electricity.
- Train Health Center staff to properly utilize and maintain the solar powered devices in order to achieve optimum benefits.
- Provide follow-up support, including site visits, to identify maintenance needs and monitor health impacts in communities.
- WEEMA staff completed classroom and field training led by We Care Solar Ambassadors.
- In 2013 and 2014 with partners, imported, installed Solar Suitcase and trained staff at 14 health facilities in Kembata Tembaro Zone and 3 in Halaba Special Woreda.
- In 2015, WEEMA imported, installed Solar Suitcase and trained staff at 23 health facilities in Hadiya Zone and 2 in Halaba Special Woreda.
- Follow up and provision of maintenance and spare parts when necessary to maintain the full functioning of the Solar Suitcase and its appliances.
- Now all Health Centers in Kembata Tembaro Zone, Hadiya Zone and Halaba Special Woreda have nighttime light – in either the traditional form of electricity or a Solar Suitcase provided by this project.
- Health Centers report increased numbers of antenatal visits and institutional deliveries since Solar Suitcase installation and credit the Solar Suitcase as being a significant reason.
- One midwife shared this story: “The bleeding would have been very difficult to manage without light. The light helped us to see and care for the baby and mother at the same time….I’ve since seen the mother for post-natal care and her baby is now starting immunizations. They are both doing well.”
- Health workers, pregnant women and mothers and other community members have expressed joy, gratitude and increased trust in the health system.