Celebrate Solutions: Solar Suitcases Shining a Light on Maternal Health Across the Globe

By: Brittany Tatum, Women Deliver

Globally there are 800 women who die from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications each day.  Virtually all of these deaths (99%) occur in developing countries and most are preventable, which is exactly what Dr. Laura Stachel saw first-hand during a research trip in Nigeria in 2008. She found that one of the most frequent issues that occurred during her trip was health workers losing power in the middle of emergency operations. When the lights go out during these procedures there are not many options. Patients either wait to be treated until daylight, or get turned away.

"I really want a world where women can deliver safely and with dignity, and women don't have to fear an event that we consider a joy in this country. To see birth associated with death and fear is an outrage,” Dr. Stachel said in an interview with CNN

Dr. Stachel saw several midwives and birth attendants conducting births by nothing but candlelight, a kerosene lantern or even the light from their cellphone. After her trip Dr. Stachel knew that she wanted to be a voice for all those women suffering, and that is why she and her husband founded WE CARE Solar. WE CARE Solar’s mission is to improve healthcare for women around the world. They are doing so by providing healthcare workers in developing countries with Solar Suitcases, portable power units that provide health workers with medical quality lighting. Each solar suitcase comes equipped with high-efficiency LED medical lighting, a universal cellphone charge, a battery charger and outlets for 12V DC devices.

These suitcases can be the tipping point for saving lives in rural areas. “For everything you do, you need light” Ugandan midwife Esther Madudu said in an interview with Stachel. “You need to wash, clean and disinfect, and if there’s no light you have to postpone everything”

The Solar Suitcases ensure that midwives and surgeons who have the kits are able to provide care around the clock without worrying about power loss, as well as making skilled care accessible to more mothers. As of 2014, approximately 900 Solar Suitcases have been assembled and sent to 25 countries around the world, which have served over 200,000 mothers and newborns. This year WE CARE Solar hopes to expand their program to Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Philippines.

To learn more about Dr. Stachel’s work and WE CARE Solar please visit their website, here.

Photo via: WE CARE Solar

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