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We Care Solar, Malawi and Tanzania

Lighting every birth to reduce maternal and child mortality

We Care Solar, Malawi and Tanzania

Every year, complications during pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of nearly 300,000 women and more than 1 million newborns, primarily in Africa and Asia. Most of these deaths could be prevented if expectant mothers could access timely emergency obstetric care. An often overlooked and seemingly basic aspect of better care is the need for electricity. An estimated 59% of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries lack reliable electricity or have no electricity at all. This poses many challenges for health workers. For example, without power, emergency interventions may be impossible at night. Patients are turned away or asked to pay for candles or kerosene, which they often cannot afford.

We Care Solar has developed the Solar Suitcase as a practical and cost-effective solution. The Solar Suitcase is a compact, easy-to-install and maintain system that includes solar panels, a 12V battery, medical procedure lights, medical devices including a fetal doppler and an array of sockets and charging capabilities. Studies have shown that providing electricity to remote maternal and child health centres contributed to a 50% decrease in maternal mortality and a 63% decrease in infant deaths.
We Care Solar’s Light Every Birth initiative targets countries with particularly high rates of maternal mortality and aims to fully saturate off-grid areas, ensuring that every eligible maternal health centre is equipped with reliable light and power. The initiative has introduced Solar Suitcases in Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The grant from the Puma Energy Foundation will support Light Every Birth in Malawi and Tanzania. Working closely with health ministries and other government bodies, local non-profit partners, United Nations agencies, and community representatives, We Care Solar will:

  • Identify health facilities in need of electrification;
  • Coordinate Solar Suitcase installations;
  • Train health care workers in their use;
  • Offer training for solar technicians, with a particular focus on women, to build local capacity in solar installation, operation and maintenance; and
  • Develop sustainability plans including technical, operational and financial aspects to enable local stakeholders to take full ownership.

Through the partnership, 80 remote and off-grid health facilities will be equipped with Solar Suitcases, 50 of them in Malawi and 30 in Tanzania. A total of 240 health workers will be trained to use the Solar Suitcases, and 26 private and governmental technicians will be certified for their installation and maintenance. These steps will improve the quality and safety of care for 120,000 mothers and newborns as well as for many other patients using these facilities.

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Photo credits: Zahara Abdul / Liz Hale / We Care Solar