New light for new life

A few years ago, in early 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel, a trained obstetrician studying public health at the University of California, traveled to northern Nigeria to study factors contributing the high level of maternal mortality in that country. During her stay she observed the precarious conditions of the state health facilities, including the total unreliability of the electricity supply, which she recognized was absolutely fundamental to ensuring the appropriate and effective treatment during birth.  

"Without a reliable source of electricity", says Laura, "health workers struggle to conduct nighttime births in the dark, and surgical treatments such as cesarean section can only take place in the dim light of torches or candles, which unfortunately often end tragically". 

Laura, conscious of the dramatic situation, wrote to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy expert in California. Hal did not take long to design a simple solar electric system for the Nigerian hospital where Laura was working, bringing light to the maternity ward, to the delivery room, and the hospital laboratory. He also developed a small portable demonstration kit - that Laura carried in her suitcase  

The portable “solar suitcase”was born from this first initiative. Each solar suitcase is equipped with solar panels, batteries, LED lamps, phone chargers, and a fetal heart rate monitor. They are easy to install and to be deployed to 'last mile' clinics. 

Laura and Hal founded the association“We Care Solar", and they began to distribute the solar suitcases northern Nigeria. "But word spread very quickly," says Laura, "and we have received requests from clinics and health workers worldwide, including the medical rescue teams of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake". 

 "The World Health Organization invited us to collaborate with the Institute for Biomedical Research in Liberia, and invited us to provide 20 solar suitcases to primary health care clinics in Liberia", says Laura.  

From December 2015 to date, We Care Solar has assembled and sent about 1,500 solar suitcases to 27 countries around the world, and conducted several regional programs and partnerships with non-governmental partner organizations of the United Nations agencies in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines.