WE CARE Solar

WE CARE Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity. The Problem Maternal mortality worldwide accounts for more than half a million deaths a year; 99 percent of these occur in underdeveloped countries. For every maternal death, at least 20 women suffer severe complications from childbirth. Major causes of maternal death include obstetric hemorrhage, obstructive labor, eclampsia, and sepsis. These emergencies cannot always be predicted, nor are they always preventable. However, with prompt, appropriate and reliable medical care...

WE CARE Solar
3009 Hillegass Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
United States
(800) 592-8916
http://www.wecaresolar.org

Co-Founder, Executive Director

Laura Stachel, MD MPH

Board of Directors

Laura Stachel, Hal Aronson, Alan Saldich, David Bank, Jane Adams, Karina Garbesi

Mission

WE CARE Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity. The Problem Maternal mortality worldwide accounts for more than half a million deaths a year; 99 percent of these occur in underdeveloped countries. For every maternal death, at least 20 women suffer severe complications from childbirth. Major causes of maternal death include obstetric hemorrhage, obstructive labor, eclampsia, and sepsis. These emergencies cannot always be predicted, nor are they always preventable. However, with prompt, appropriate and reliable medical care, they are unlikely to result in loss of life. Sporadic electricity impairs the operation of surgical wards, delivery wards, essential hospital equipment, and hospital communication devices. This compromises the ability of health workers to provide safe, appropriate and timely medical care. Labor and delivery nurses cannot quickly notify on-call physicians of emergencies. Midwives and physicians are forced to make treatment decisions without the benefit of necessary diagnostic tests. Obstetric procedures and emergency surgeries are conducted under grossly suboptimal conditions, and can have tragic consequences. Our Background Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel went to Northern Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal mortality in state hospitals. She witnessed deplorable conditions in state facilities including sporadic electricity that impaired maternity and surgical care. Without a reliable source of electricity, nighttime deliveries were attended in near darkness, cesarean sections were cancelled or conducted by flashlight, and critically ill patients waited hours or days for life-saving procedures. The outcomes were often tragic. Laura wrote to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator back in Berkeley, California. Together, Laura and Hal co-founded WE CARE Solar to improve maternal health outcomes in regions without reliable electricity. Hal designed an off-grid solar electric system for the hospital Laura was studying, targeting the maternity ward, labor room, laboratory and operating theatre. A Portable Solution Hal created a suitcase-sized prototype of the hospital solar electric system so Laura could show Nigerian hospital workers the LED lights, headlamps and walkie-talkies planned for deployment. When Laura returned to Nigeria toting the "solar suitcase," her Nigerian colleagues immediately grasped its significance and began using this kit to charge headlamps and walkie-talkies while they awaited the larger solar installation. In addition, hospital employees introduced Laura to clinicians in outlying health facilities who begged her to bring solar lighting to their own clinics, too. Our five-year goal is to serve 5 million mothers in remote areas by deploying 10,000 Solar Suitcases to health care facilities around the globe.

Programs

WE CARE (Women's Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity) Solar provides health facilities with highly efficient solar energy systems to power medical lighting, mobile communication and essential medical devices. Our robust, plug-and-play Solar Suitcases facilitate timely, safe, appropriate emergency obstetric care and lower maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Our first project (2009) was to provide off-grid solar electricity to a state hospital in Nigeria. Even with access to intermittent grid power and a back-up generator, the hospital was without electricity many hours each day. WE CARE Solar designed a solar electric installation targeting areas of the hospital involved in emergency obstetric care; the system provided reliable lighting and power to the operating room, maternity ward, and labor and delivery ward, and powered a blood bank refrigerator. In the year after these installations, the hospital had a 70% decline in institutional maternal deaths and an increased capacity to admit mothers in labor. When word of the solar-powered maternity ward reached clinics in surrounding areas, we began receiving requests for solar electric lighting and electricity at the primary health facility level. In response to local demand for reliable maternity lighting and power, WE CARE Solar designed a user-friendly, portable, rugged, solar electric kit - the WE CARE Solar Suitcase - small enough to be transported in a suitcase and simple enough to be installed without a solar electrician. The innovation is now being used in clinics around the world, enabling health providers to safely conduct emergency obstetric care with fewer delays. What is a solar suitcase? The WE CARE Solar Suitcase is a highly efficient stand-alone solar-powered electric system designed for maternal health care facilities in developing countries. It supplies daily electricity to power critical medical procedure lighting and mobile communication equipment. The system can be used as an independent power supply for rural clinics or as a back-up source of electricity for centers with intermittent power or unpredictable sources of power. Designed specifically for health workers in harsh environments, this mid-size solar electric system pairs stand-alone solar electricity with high quality end appliances such as rugged LED lamps. The system's cost-effective design and components - solar panel, battery, charge controller, load center and lights - are integrated to fit within a carry-on size suitcase. The result is a low-cost, safe, easy-to-use, portable, and immediately operational system that facilitates the successful treatment of obstetric emergencies. The WE CARE Solar Suitcase provides 12 volt DC power for (1) durable high-efficiency LED lighting, designed for obstetric and surgical care, 2) LED headlamps, (3) mobile communication devices (either cell phones or two-way radios), and (4) 12V DC laptop computers. With expansion, the suitcase can provide electricity for (5) additional medical devices and (6) blood bank refrigeration. While the primary end-users of the WE CARE Solar Suitcase are clinicians providing obstetric and neonatal care, other health care workers can also employ the solution, resulting in better health care for mothers, babies and families. Healthcare workers benefiting from the technology today report greater facility and ease in conducting procedures at night. Emergency obstetric care is safer, timelier, and more effective when WE CARE's reliable lighting and power is used. Improved lighting allows health workers to identify and treat complications such as hemorrhage and obstetric lacerations, and allows emergency c/sections to occur throughout the night. Solar-powered cell phones and walkie-talkies allow a surgical crew to be alerted when obstetric emergencies require immediate surgery. With blood bank refrigeration, transfusions occur without delay. The Solar Suitcase lets healthcare workers conduct emergency care 24 hours a day with greater confidence and prevents unnecessary delays that may result in loss of life. In the spring of 2011 we installed 14 suitcases in clinics in Liberia. We have been conducting research with the clinicians we met in Liberia to learn about their experience using the solar suitcase. The feedback has been uniformly great, as we hear how the suitcases are used to power lights, cell phones, and other devices. Clinicians tell us that it's easier to see at night and repair lacerations, making obstetric care safer. The solar suitcase has become a source of pride - villagers come to some clinics just to see the bright lights in the maternity rooms. We're told that the overhead LED lights in the labor rooms are attracting more women to deliver in clinics at night. This means more women are having skilled providers at their births. One provider informed us, "People love it and say, 'I wish I could be in labor!'" Getting more women to choose birth in clinics with skilled providers is one important way to promote safe motherhood, and we're proud to be playing a part in this international goal. Most recently, we've been working in Kaduna and Kano states in Northern Nigeria and will be installing solar suitcases in labor rooms in hospitals and clinics in the coming months. We've equipped the newest Solar Suitcases with fetal doppler (a machine that detects fetal heart beats), cell phones with SMS capacity (to conduct surveys on clinical care) and remote monitoring (to follow the performance of the solar suitcase 24 hours a day). We will distribute a total of 36 Solar Suitcases to health facilities in Northern Nigeria in the next several months. THE WE CARE Solar educational programs are also an important part of our work. We provide written and hands-on training to optimize installation, use, and maintenance of the Solar Suitcase. In larger initiatives (e.g. Haiti, Nigeria and Liberia) WE CARE Solar has delivered Solar Suitcases and provided in-country trainings and initial operations assistance to health workers and technicians.

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