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...
Jul 8, 2016

Lighting Up Lives in Sengerema

Midwife checking fetal heartbeat using phone light
Midwife checking fetal heartbeat using phone light

Thanks to your support, our Solar Suitcases continue to help health workers, mothers and babies in Tanzania. One story from a local midwife reminded us about the impact of having reliable light and power.

Rachel is a midwife who works in a four-room clinic in Igaka, Tanzania. Rachel wanted to become a midwife since before she was 12 years old, and at the age of 23, she now cares for all the pregnant women in the surrounding villages. Although she loves her profession, Rachel never imagined that she would be delivering babies in a clinic that did not have reliable electricity. The health center in which she works is surrounded by rich soil land bearing green vegetables, tomatoes, abundant foliage and a plethora of farm animals. But it has no stable source of light.

When the sun sets, the bucolic setting is quickly shrouded in complete darkness. Rachel relies on patient family members to bring candles and oil lanterns to the labor room when they come for maternity care. The lighting is dim, but without this, the clinic is in utter darkness. Rachel’s only other recourse is to use a small beam of light from her cell phone. By holding this in her mouth, her hands are kept free for medical procedures. This exposes her to infection, and leaves her unable to communicate verbally with her patients.

Rachel described a delivery when she lost light just as the baby’s head was crowning. In complete darkness, Rachel struggled to guide the baby’s head through the birth canal, but couldn’t safely complete the delivery. She covered the baby and mother with a kanga – a traditional cotton cloth – then raced back to her home to fetch her small cell phone light. “By the grace of God, the woman and her baby survived.” But the experience left Rachel fearful of nighttime care.

When Rachel received a Solar Suitcase, she beamed with delight. Her experience at the clinic was transformed. Now there was bright light for nighttime care, she could keep her cell phone charged for emergency referrals, and she could easily detect the fetal heart beat during labor. In addition, the light has encouraged more women to choose skilled deliveries in the clinic over unattended home births.

Stories like this one remind us of how crucial it is for health workers to have the tools they need to save lives. Your support helps ensure that mothers in Tanzania have safer childbirth, thank you very much. 

Same clinic room with Solar Suitcase light
Same clinic room with Solar Suitcase light
Mar 23, 2016

Light Saves Lives in Tanzania

Midwife Holding Cell Phone At Night
Midwife Holding Cell Phone At Night

Imagine you are a midwife midwife trying to maneuver a difficult delivery, or needing to find resuscitation equipment in a delivery room while a newborn baby gasps for air.

Now imagine you are doing all this without light.

Over the last five years, I have met hundreds of health workers in Africa, Asia, and in Haiti who found themselves in these very situations. I have met doctors who were forced to conduct surgeries on pregnant women by candlelight or kerosene lamps, and midwives who tearfully recounted stories of the countless mothers and newborns they have lost because there was no light in the labor room, or no way to charge a cellphone to call for emergency help.

Their adversary is darkness, and we know how to produce light. Specifically, light created from safe, reliable and renewable electricity.

What if we placed this light in a box—no bigger than a suitcase—and brought one to every health clinic?

This is what we are doing at We Care Solar.

We created a sturdy 12 V DC solar electric system and paired it with highly efficient and essential equipment - medical lights, phone chargers and a fetal monitor. We placed this system in a compact yellow box and called it the Solar Suitcase. The Solar Suitcase provides the first essential watts of electricity for a health center.

We Care Solar worked with the Sengerema health district in Tanzania, East Africa, from November to December 2014 to assess and select the health facilities to receive the Solar Suitcase. Of the 72 health facilities in Sengerema District, 58 were identified as appropriate recipients of the Solar Suitcase.

In February 2015, We Care Solar led Solar Suitcase training for 282 midwives, nurses, and health workers from local health facilities in the Sengerema district. The project finished installing all 58 Solar Suitcases in July 2015.

Since the installation of the Solar Suitcases, the health facilities have had a total of 3,827 deliveries, 9,330 first antenatal (pre-birth) care (ANC) visits, and 3,732 fourth ANC visits. Midwives reported improvements in emergency care, phone accessibility, and patient confidence toward competency of health facilities at night.

The Solar Suitcase program in the Sengerema Health District is improving childbirth outcomes by enhancing the services infrastructure of these health facilities. Midwives report improvements in the delivery of healthcare because with the Solar Suitcase, they now have reliable light for night procedures. In addition, they now have a constant energy source for using the fetal Doppler, and a reliable communication and transport system for emergency care.

Since the installation of the Solar Suitcases, the utilization of the health facilities for pre-natal care and deliveries, especially nighttime deliveries, has increased. Community members feel more confident in the health facilities, as demonstrated in an uptake in postpartum (post-birth) care and family planning services. Midwives and patients see the installation of the Solar Suitcases as a turning point in improving healthcare services in the Sengerema Health District.

“I can confess that we no longer use candles and kerosene lamps... The lights in the labor room have also increased confidentiality and patient comfort during service provision, as we no longer need to call someone to assist in holding up a lamp during delivery. The head lamps have provided us with the ability to see equipment and medicine in the cupboards and aided us in the documentation process.”

- Winnie Munisi, Registered Nurse at Katunguru Health Center

Solar Suitcase in Tanzania
Solar Suitcase in Tanzania
Training of Trainers-WCS, Pathfinder, District Rep
Training of Trainers-WCS, Pathfinder, District Rep
Health Dispensary in Sengerama with Solar Suitcase
Health Dispensary in Sengerama with Solar Suitcase
Kasungamile Health Facility health workers
Kasungamile Health Facility health workers
Midwife Using Fetal Doppler
Midwife Using Fetal Doppler
Mother and Her Children in Health Center
Mother and Her Children in Health Center

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