We Care Solar, a humanitarian organization that distributes solar panels to rural delivery centers, has assured the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health (MoH) that it will provide electricity for delivery centers across the country.
The organization was founded in the United States by its executive director and co-founder, Dr. Laura Stachel, and aims to find solutions to electricity challenge facing many delivery centers in African countries and in Asia.
The disclosure to electrify delivery centers in Liberia was made on March 9 at a resort in Monrovia during the launch of “Light Every Birth,” a project exclusively set for Liberia under the We Care Solar program.
“We are partnering with the MoH to bring electricity to every delivery room in this country, because our midwives and doctors need reliable lighting and electricity to provide life-saving care. They cannot continue to use lanterns and other poor sources of lighting,” said Stachel.
She said her dream of lighting up maternal health care with solar power came following an intensive research in Africa where she discovered that doctors and other medical practitioners in Nigeria were using lanterns and generators that could not supply electricity for long hours, while they perform surgery and other medical procedures on pregnant women.
Following the research, Dr. Stachel said she shared the story with her husband, who was then teaching young people how to build solar panel in community colleges and high schools in California, USA.
“After sharing the story with my husband, he replied that we could help address the situation, and he designed solar electric systems that could provide operation rooms with light, equip the laboratory and blood bank refrigerator and light the maternity ward and delivery room,” she added.
Dr. Stachel said the idea to bring the project to Liberia was the result of a call she received from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva in 2011 to help Liberia, where health centers, especially maternal health centers in rural areas, lacked electricity in delivery rooms.
As they begin to establish the project in Liberia, Dr. Stachel said they are also training Liberians on how to use and install the equipment, targeting Bong and Lofa counties in the first phase.
Apart from lightning up the delivery rooms, Dr. Stachel said “The solar energy system will also enhance fast and effective telecommunications for emergency consultations and referrals..”
Materials making up the set include the solar panel, 12 volt battery, charge controller and other accessories, namely: lamps, AA and AAA battery charger, fetal Doppler, headlamps, and phone chargers, contained in solid yellow suitcases.
Dr. Stachel was joined by US Ambassador Christine Elder for a demonstration on how the system works.
We Care Solar program began in Liberia in 2011 following a call by WHO for assistance, and during its introduction, Vice President Joseph Boakai encouraged the group to expand it to all parts of the country so rural health centers facing challenges with electricity can benefit.
At the March 9 launch, VP Boakai said the service one provides is for the people who are expected to benefit from said service.
He lauded We Care Solar and urged those that attended the ceremony to be people centered instead of seeking self-interest.
Deputy Minister of Health for Administration and Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis Nah Kateh expressed gratitude for the project, “because it complements efforts by the government to provide resilient healthcare for the population.”
Dr. Kateh said the lighting of rural delivery centers is consonant with his principle, “More work, less talk.”
MoH’s Director of Family Health, Dr. Joseph Kerkula described the kits as solid materials that hardly break when they are accidentally dropped.
He said close to 300 deliver rooms are to benefit from the project, for which they are training locals to sustain the materials.
We Care Solar/Light Every Birth Liberia receives funding from the UN DESA, UBS Optimus and Gilead Foundations, and is partnering with the MoH, Africare, Public Health Initiative Liberia and EnDev (Energizing Development).
By July this year, the project hopes to equip more than 200 maternal health facilities with the solar suitcases, with plans to equip more facilities over the next two years.
Meanwhile, in 2014, We Care Soar provided solar suitcases to assist with Ebola surveillance; and in 2016, it worked with UN Women on a healthcare program and discussed a countrywide initiative with the MoH.