We Care Solar Suitcase in Sierra Leone
In January 2012, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and UNFPA invited We Care Solar to Sierra Leone. We Care Solar brought a team to conduct a pilot project - installing seven Solar Suitcases in rural health facilities throughout the country. The trip was coordinated by midwife Isha Daramy-Kabia (Friends of Maternity Hospitals) and the We Care team included We Care Co-founder and Executive Director Laura Stachel, MD, MPH; Solar Energy International electrician and educator, Carol Weis; and documentary filmmaker Lisa Russell.
Sierra Leone has some of the poorest health indicators in the world. The most recent DHS survey (SLDHS, 2008) reports a maternal mortality ratio of 857 per 100,000, an infant mortality rate of 89 per 1000 live births, and a newborn mortality rate of 36 per 1000 live births. Most of the 1,200 rural health centers in Sierra Leone lack reliable electricity, making it difficult to deliver critical services- particularly at night. On several occasions our team was greeted by communities who showed their excitement about the Solar Suitcase by singing and dancing, inventing lyrics about our mission. “Welcome!” they chanted in Krio. “You have brought light. Now we can get treatment.”
On this trip, We Care demonstrated that rural health workers can quickly learn basic solar electricity, that a rugged entry-level solar electric system can be easily installed in remote health centers, and that communities can become instant partners in our efforts to reduce energy poverty and promote safe motherhood. But this is just the beginning…and we hope that one day we will fulfill Isha’s dream to ensure that all the labor rooms in Sierra Leone have reliable lighting.