Powering Clinics in Tanzania

What happens when you give 30 healthcare centers a little power?

EMC’s grant to We Care Solar helped provide 30 solar suitcases and training for rural healthcare facilities in Tanzania (where a woman’s lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 45) that previously functioned without reliable power. The electricity We Care Solar suitcases generate is used to charge cell phones, operate medical equipment and provide light for nighttime births that used to be attended only by the dim light of a candle, flashlight, kerosene lamp, or phone.

The introduction of solar power to rural communities also provides job training for solar suitcase installation, maintenance and repair. It trains and enables healthcare providers to use basic medical equipment to better monitor and diagnose their patients. It improves women’s confidence that their local healthcare facility can meet their needs and it improves healthcare providers’ confidence that they can do their jobs safely and well. It means that more women attend prenatal care because the quality of care they receive is better than it has ever been. And more women choose to deliver at healthcare facilities because they know that no matter what time of day or night they arrive in labor, their midwife will have the light and power to deliver them safely.

We’ve seen the preliminary data from 2015 and we’re amazed at how quickly maternal health is improving in clinics where solar suitcases have been installed.

  • The number of mothers and babies delivered at suitcase-equipped facilities rose from 816 to 1500 births in a matter of months compared to pre-suitcase numbers.
  • Sixty healthcare workers’ jobs improved dramatically with the flip of a switch. Because they had access to fully charged cell phones, more healthcare providers were able to call their regional dispatch centers to arrange emergency transport to district hospitals for high-risk mothers and babies.
  • When you do the math on all the mothers delivered, babies born and healthcare providers who no longer work off the grid, it adds up to 7840 lives impacted in less than a year.

The most important impact of all is this: Zero maternal or neonatal deaths were reported in clinics where solar suitcases were installed.

As impressive as these numbers are, it’s the comments we’ve heard from healthcare workers themselves that really drive the power home.

“We used to experience electricity black outs because with the National grid, when prepaid electricity charges expire, it takes about one month to recharge an account. That leaves us without reliable electricity for more than one month because of government bureaucracy. But now that we have the solar suitcase, we feel confident of attending pregnant women during evening and night hours. I can confess that we are now not using candles and kerosene lamps any more. The lights in the labor room have also increased confidentiality and privacy for our patients during delivery. We no longer need someone to hold up a lamp so we can see the birth. The head lamps provided with the suitcases also let us see equipment and medicine in the cupboards and help us complete our documentation process.”

“It’s helping build trust between health workers and families and more are now opting for delivery by a skilled health worker.”

“Mothers are now attracted to come to the health center. We don’t ask them to come with a candle or kerosene to provide delivery lighting. There is no inconvenience to them. We don’t ask them to give anything. We deliver them safely and the mothers are happy.”

That’s what happens when you give 30 healthcare centers a little power.

Every Mother Counts has extended this grant to provide 20 more solar suitcases in rural Tanzania. Keep an eye on the blog and our grants page as we watch our impact grow.

Topics: Our Work