Every expectant mother wants a healthy baby. But many clinics in Sub-Sahara Africa lack the basics - basics that doctors and nurses need to ensure safe deliveries for parents and child, basics like reliable electricity.
These clinic workers in Kano Nigeria describe what it’s like to treat patients in the dark.
“It’s not easy for taking delivery, taking baby without light. We have to look for a lamp or any other that things. The patient can be bleeding, anything can happen to us … And there is no way, no light, nothing to see what is going on? What is happening to the patient?”
American obstetrician Laura Stachel was appalled by the lack of light when she first visited Africa in 2008.
“In the middle of the night, very often there was no light whatsoever. And they were using kerosene lanterns to try to examine patients with severe medical conditions. I was watching a C-section where the light went out and the doctor had to finish by my flash light.
That was the only lighting available.”
Doctor Stachel turned to her husband to help her come up with a solution.
“My husband is a solar educator and an innovator. And he said:” Laura, when you come back, maybe we can think of something to at least help electricity situation in the hospital.” So together when I got back from Nigeria, we thought about what we could do to make a difference in this one hospital. And we thought we could use solar electricity because the sun is the free source of fuel.”
They began with large solar panels put together in their backyard. Today suitcase-size kits provide the power of light to almost 200 clinics around the world.
“I asked my husband if he could put together a kit that was small enough for me to fit into my suitcase, so I could slip customs easily. And I also didn’t know a lot about solar. So I said “Could you make it easy enough for me to use?”. So that put together everything you can, so that I can just put together a couple of wires at the end and show them what to do.”
On a recent training trip to Nigeria, Stachel’s Suitcase of reliable power was well received.
“We will be very happy. And everything will go smoothly. And now we are trying more and more.”
Despite the success, Doctor Stachel says adequate lighting and reliable electricity are only the beginning of the story. Beyond that she says it’s important to make sure that health workers also have the right education, tools and support to do their job.