We Care Solar: A suitcase that powers health care in developing nations

We Care Solar designs solar-powered systems to meet essential maternity care needs.

Every day, over 830 women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. By the end of 2015, roughly 303 000 women will have died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Around 99 per cent of these deaths occur in Africa and Asia and other developing nations where electricity and adequate medical equipment is scarce. To address this problem, US-born Dr Laura Stachel and her husband Hal Aronson, a solar energy expert, created the We Care Solar Suitcase, a solar powered solution to medical emergencies.

The suitcase is a portable power unit that provides healthcare workers with highly efficient medical lighting and power for mobile communication, laptops and small medical devices. It comes equipped with a battery, which runs for about two years, a cabinet that mounts to the wall and panels that can be secured to a roof for clinic installations.

According to the project’s website, more than 1000 health centres had been equipped with the device by 2014. The project has trained over 5000 healthcare workers, serving 400 000 mothers and newborns.

Its initial launch was carried out in Nigeria where a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 13. The success of the device in the country was picked up by UNICEF, which went on to donate 53 suitcases to clinics in Karamoja, Uganda. Now, over 1000 Solar Suitcases have been assembled and sent to 25 countries around the world.

While the suitcase was initially designed to save the lives of mothers and newborns, it is now used for a range of medical interventions. They were recently deployed after the Nepal earthquake in April 2015 and assisted in the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.