How to help hospitals with unreliable electricity supplies deliver life-saving treatment? A portable solar power system – that fits into a suitcase – has been doing just that.
Lack of electricity and hospitals don’t go well together: equipment cannot be operated, hospital communications are hindered, health workers are unable to provide appropriate and timely medical care.
Within maternity wards in particular, lack of access to electricity is a contributing factor to the high maternal mortality rate experienced in low-income countries, where the majority of the over 300,000 maternal deaths per year worldwide are estimated to occur.
Although complications such as hemorrhaging or infections during childbirth can not always be prevented, the timely communication between medical personnel, and the swift delivery of effective medical care can greatly reduce the loss of life associated with them – access to a reliable electricity source is paramount to that.
We Care Solar is the non-profit organisation behind the Solar Suitcase, a portable tool designed to promote safe childbirth and prevent unnecessary maternal and newborn mortality, by enabling reliable lighting, mobile communication and the powering of medical devices.
What’s in it?
Easy to use and requiring minimal maintenance, the Solar Suitcase is designed to power essential obstetric and surgical lighting, mobile phones, fetal heart rate monitors and other essential medical devices.
The system can be used both as a mobile solar-energy system or it can be mounted for more permanent use. Easy to use and robust, it contains “solar panels, a battery, a charge controller, 12V DC outlets, and the hardware needed for installation,” and features rechargeable LED headlamps, cell-phone charging, and a fetal heart monitor with rechargeable batteries.
Its basic and its basic plus models – at 40-80 watt solar power respectively (you can read their technical specification here) – can be expanded with modular additions, to support larger panels/batteries, and also to provide electricity for extra medical devices or laptop computers.
We Care Solar also helps with local capacity building through its training programme that helps develop local knowledge in the installation, maintenance and use of the Solar Suitcase.
Healthy mothers and newborns & a healthier climate
To date, the Solar Suitcase has been bringing solar-powered lighting and electricity to some 2000 health centres, and has ensured safer deliveries for 700,000 mothers, in West and East Africa, Nepal, the Philippines, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nepal.
And by helping replace polluting and dangerours kerosene lanterns and diesel generators in the process, We Care Solar estimate that their Solar Suitcase has avoide the production of over 30,000 tons of CO2.
Here’s co-founder Laura Stachel telling us how the Solar Suitcase came about: