By Nnamdi Odumody
Lack of electricity and the poor state of healthcare facilities has led to increase in infant and maternal mortality cases in developing countries, claiming the lives of over 300,000 women in developing countries around the world.
WeCare solar suitcase was developed by Dr Laura Stachel as a response to this friction. It is a highly efficient yellow portable suitcase which contains medical equipment including fetal monitors, a mobile phone, rechargeable headlamps and batteries, solar panels and outlets for 12 volt DC devices. The solar suitcase has helped to provide healthcare and electricity access for 1.9 million people and 4000 medical facilities in 27 countries on the African continent.
WeCare Solar partners with the World Health Organization and UNICEF as well as agencies and governments across Africa to support its Light Birth Initiative aimed at improving obstetric care across the continent, and skills development to local experts in installation and maintenance of the suitcase.
The Solar Suitcase includes medical-quality lighting, a fetal monitor, a battery charger, headlamps and cellphone charging so that health-care workers can make emergency referrals. Earlier units were built by hand, and later designs used off-the-shelf components and local contract manufacturers.
Because the Solar Suitcase is used in developing countries where people earn less than $1,000 per year, the nonprofit must also drive down costs as much as possible.
The latest Solar Suitcase, known as version 3.0, was made possible by close collaboration between the two companies. Its lower-cost, more robust, and powerful design uses the latest technologies that weren’t available for earlier versions of the system. The new design is also easier to manufacture at scale, easier to install and use and easier to train people in its use
They are currently working on countrywide programs for the elimination of poverty in healthcare facilities by 2030 through their Light Every Birth campaign with governments, UN agencies, and Non Governmental Organizations aimed at ensuring reliable electricity access in every public health centre.
In January, it won the 2019 Zayed Sustainability Prize in the health category for its impact on the health and safety outcomes for millions of women and children in Africa and Asia. It envisions a world where all mothers and infants survive childbirth, children thrive, and families have uninterrupted access to quality healthcare.