Sustainable Energy for Safe Childbirth | Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nepal

No woman should die giving life. We Care Solar works to ensure women can safely deliver their babies by bringing solar power to remote, off-grid, under-resourced medical centers. Since 2010, We Care Solar has reached more than 2,600 health facilities with its compact, rugged, and immediately operational Solar Suitcases that provide power for medical lighting, essential electricity, and fetal monitoring for obstetric care.

This initiative saves lives, as health workers no longer struggle to provide life-saving care with inadequate and dangerous lighting, such as kerosene lanterns, candles, and diesel fuel generators.

Key facts

  • Over 2,600 health care facilities are benefitting from the We Care Solar project;
  • To date, Solar Suitcases have been placed in clinics serving more than a million mothers and their newborns;
  • 2,600 Solar Suitcases have been shipped to sites in 27 countries;
  • 10,000 health workers have participated in We Care Solar training programs;
  • More than 1,000,000 babies have been delivered in health centers using the Solar Suitcase.

The problem

Globally, more than 300,000 women die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and more than 1 million newborns die during the first month of life. Regions with high levels of maternal and newborn mortality have the highest overlap with regions that lack modern energy sources; more than 200,000 health facilities do not have reliable electricity. Health workers struggle to provide life-saving care with inadequate lighting and rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and diesel fuel generators. These sources of light emit harmful fumes and carbon dioxide (CO2), and also increase the risk of fire.


The solution

Solar Suitcases make solar power simple and accessible to underserved last-mile health centers. In collaboration with international partners such as UNICEF, WHO, Pathfinder, and Save the Children, We Care Solar is working to equip hundreds of health centers with Solar Suitcases and is assessing and selecting appropriate health facilities in need of reliable electricity.

By providing a clean alternative to fossil fuel sources of energy, rural health centers represent a model of renewable energy options for communities. In many cases, We Care Solar Suitcases have provided the first source of electricity to a village, showing that the sun is a powerful, free, and non-polluting source of fuel. By demonstrating modern renewable energy technologies, their program inspires the widespread adoption of solar electricity. Health workers are beginning to demand solar electricity for larger facilities and community members seek solar lanterns and solar home systems.

Helping the planet

As We Care Solar Suitcases® replace fossil fuel-sourced electricity for maternal health care, they provide a clean source of lighting, thus reducing CO2 emissions, improving air quality and removing the risk of fire. The medical LED lights employed are highly efficient and use only 4 watts of power. The amount of CO2 saved by 100 Solar Suitcase amounts to approximately 310 tonnes of CO2 per year. In the last five years, 2,400 Solar Suitcases are being used in more than 20 developing countries in partnership with leading international NGOs, UN agencies, and development organizations, representing a total reduction of 26,000 tonnes of CO2.

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Helping people

As mothers are the primary care-givers, they play a vital role in the economic health of their families and communities. Maternal mortality has lifelong impacts on childhood health, education and the economic potential of their families. A baby born to a healthy mother is more likely to survive infancy, gain educational opportunities, as well as receiving adequate nourishment. Solar Suitcases can also build the resilience of healthcare systems, thus improving the economic productivity of medical staff. The mobile Solar Suitcases have been particularly helpful in emergency response programs, such as providing emergency energy to critical health centers affected by earthquakes (Nepal), and typhoons (The Philippines.

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Spillover effect

With the success of this project, We Care Solar is hopeful that governments will prioritize sustainable energy for maternal and child health and make more funds available for this and a range of other sustainable solutions. The product and program were field-tested in several countries to ensure that the design could be used in different settings. The Solar Suitcase functions as mobile device for emergencies and can be permanently mounted in health centers, utilizing tools, hardware, instruction guides, and videos provided by We Care Solar to facilitate installation. By engineering a robust product, training local health workers and technicians, providing clear instructional guides, and partnering with a network of dedicated partners, volunteers, and vendors, the challenges facing replication have been addressed. Programs have so far been implemented in: Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Nepal, The Philippines and Haiti.

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