Childbirth via “solar suitcase”

The UN Foundation’s Adele Waugaman relates an inspiring story of how a doctor can deliver babies even without electricity:

When obstetrician Laura Stachel arrived in rural Nigeria to collect data about maternal care, she was shocked to discover that women were dying in childbirth because clinics had no reliable power supply.

After taking a course on solar electricity, she created what she calls the “solar suitcase” – which is now proving a life-saver in one of the hospitals she visited.

In the northern city of Zaria, Laura found that the lone public hospital had only 160 hospital beds for a population of 1.5 million, and that electricity was available no more than 12 hours a day.  There was no running water in the delivery room, and no blood bank because intermittent access to electricity meant the blood couldn’t be refrigerated reliably.

Laura’s “solar suitcase”, a kit of solar panels and rechargeable batteries, can light operating and delivery rooms, run a blood bank refrigerator and power two-way radios so that staff can call in off-duty doctors for emergency surgery.

To help solve the problems Laura was dealing with in Nigeria was exactly that reason that humanitarians and technical experts were meeting at the Humanitarian Technology Challenge this week.  Visit Reuters AlertNet for Adele’s whole piece.

(image of Nigerian mother and child, from flickr user Soumik Kar under a Creative Commons license)