Lighting the Darkness in Partnership with WE CARE Solar and Rural Communities!

Can you imagine personally delivering–or birthing–a baby in total darkness? What if your wife, mother, sister, or friend needed to undergo an emergency cesarean section to save her life or the life of her unborn child’s? These thoughts are terrifying, and Safe Mother, Safe Babies believes that nobody should ever face such conditions as a reality. That is why SAFE partnered with WE CARE Solar to bring Solar Suitcases to Ugandan health facilities’ maternity wards and operating theaters. Our first set of installations took place in December, but right now, WE CARE Solar is in Uganda doing more installations as we speak! Check out the pictures and captions below for some insight into their experiences with SAFE! 
Above: Operating Theater Nurse Rebecca with the December-installed Solar Suitcase in the Iganga District Hospital Operating Theater. She is holding the mobile light that the OR team uses during cesarean sections (so they can get just the right positioning) when the power goes out! WE CARE Solar Technical Director and Engineer, Hal Aronson, is in the background.

Above: WE CARE Solar Executive Director, Laura Stachel, and Technical Director, Hal Aronson, at the Lubira Health Center Solar Suitcase Celebration! The community groups with which SAFE works put on a HUGE celebration to promote the Solar Suticase and celebrate the help they received from WE CARE Solar and SAFE. It featured songs, dramas, dancing, and a health fair, and was the biggest celebration we’ve had yet (hundreds of people came)!

Above: During the celebration, Laura Stachel (clinically trained OB/GYN) went into the health center to help deliver a health baby boy under the newly installed Solar Suitcase lights. The mother was so appreciative of all the help she received that she named her son “Hal” after Hal Aronson, WE CARE Solar’s Technical Director who installed the Solar Suitcase!

This is further proof of the great work that can happen when two dynamic and dedicated nonprofits work TOGETHER to bring sustainable change to rural maternal and child health. We have loved working with WE CARE Solar, and are excited for all the work we will continue to accomplish together, lighting up the darkness, in full and equal partnership with rural Ugandan women, their families, and health facilities.

The Solar Suitcase at Work!

Check out this photo from SAFE interns Hayley Heath, Ahsley Larsen, and Rachel Fisher. Hayley, Ashley, and Rachel have been in Uganda since May (3 month stay!) evaluating, “Light the Night,” our joint project with WE CARE Solar that brough 20 Solar Suitcases to Ugandan maternal health facilities. In the picture below, the Iganga District Hospital Operating Theater staff are using a mobile Solar Suitcase light to start an IV on a newborn during a power outage. Awesome work all the way around!!

Life-Saving Light

For all those who have been following our Solar Suitcase installation story, here are two videos that show its immediate impact. The first shows SAFE Founder and President, Jacqueline Cutts, working with the spokeswoman for AMREF’s Stand Up for African Mothers campaign, midwife Esther Madudu, to resuscitate a premature newborn under the lights of a Solar Suitcase installed only 5 minutes before the baby’s birth. The second video shows an interview with Esther talking about how the existence of reliable lighting helped her provide quality care to both the premature newborn and her mother!

Life-Saving Light: Neonatal Resuscitation
 
Interview with Esther Madudu
 

Health workers and patients respond positively to Solar Suitcase Installations

The Safe Mothers, Safe Babies team (comprised of SAFE CEO and Founder Jacquie Cutts, Jacquie’s husband and Technical Director Richard Cutts, and SAFE intern Rachel Fisher) recently returned from their trip to Uganda having successfully completed 21 Solar Suitcase Installations! The Solar Suitcases have already made a huge impact in the ability of health workers to save the lives of many mothers and babies, by providing light during the rampant power outages currently affecting Uganda. Jacquie interviewed many of doctors, nurses, midwives, and patients about their experiences. Here are the testimonials from health workers at several hospitals in which Solar Suitcases have been installed:

Iganga District Hospital Staff: Rebecca, nurse at the Iganga Hospital Operating Theater:

“It has helped us. The previous night, power went off. And we were switched on the solar system, and we continued with our operation. It was successful, and it helped us so much. We are so grateful.” “We couldn’t resuscitate the baby because we had only the torches. The torches we were moving. But now the power was there, so somebody was there to resuscitate the baby while the operation continued. We finished both successfully.”

Installation at Iganga District Hospital Operating Theater



Nurse from the Iganga District Hospital Maternity Ward:

“Well before, we used to have a generator. But then it broke. It’s about sustainability. If there is no fuel, it is not sustainable. When power goes off, you have to operate by kerosene. Sometimes we don’t have paraffin. Then we have to use cell phones… and that is not enough light.”

Light installed on non-functional operating theater light, allowing the physicians to point the light wherever they need it to go!

Dr. Kato, anesthetist officer at Iganga District Hospital Operating Theater:

“When the power goes off during an operation, we use whatever is around. A torch. This is very stressful during an operation, and the light is not sufficient, but this is all we had.” In our country, we don’t have enough power. Normally, it goes off. There are so many stories about the power going off in operations, I can’t even tell them all. We just use whatever torch is around, and do our best. When the American friends installed the solar power, that very night it went out and we had just started a cesarean section. One of the staff had been trained in the use of that Solar Suitcase, and she switched it on. We were able to finish the operation successfully. Then, there was another one which was pending, and we did the second operation because we had enough light. Iganga is one of the busiest hospitals—it’s a district hospital. Even it is on the main highway and there are passengers from many other countries who get in accidents at night. So now we will be able to treat them properly even if the power is off. Now, with the solar, patients will be handled timely, more efficiently, and we won’t have any need to transfer patients to the next hospital which is Jinja because of light. All operations now will be carried out here.”   

Class trained at the Iganga District Hospital, including staff from both the theater and the maternity ward.

Bugiri District Hospital Staff:

Dr. Steven, acting superintendent at the hospital, and Nurse Akirwye, nursing office from Maternity Ward:

Nurse: “When power goes off and we have a mother that is delivering, what we’ve been using is our small torches on our phones. That’s what we use. Maybe if a patient can afford to buy a small candle, it also helps us in lighting. But that is all.”

Doctor: “For cesarean mothers, if there is fuel, we can put on the generator, but if there is no fuel, we are forced to refer these mothers to another hospital, to the Iganga Hospital, which is very expensive and the mothers can’t afford the fuel to put in the ambulance to transfer them. In the worst cases, we find that if there is no power here, there is also no power in another hospital—it isn’t there either.” 

Nurse: “The light is not enough, especially if there is a tear. Because if the mother got a tear, then we need to suture it, but if the light isn’t there, we make her wait until morning, that’s when we have to repair the tear. And even resuscitation. If we can’t see well, we can’t resuscitate the babies adequately. And we can’t even score these babies so well [referring to APGAR]. Because we have to score the skin color, but we can’t, so we fail to know whether exactly the baby is okay or not.”

Doctor: “When it comes to monitoring, you can’t monitor a baby in darkness. You can’t tell whether the baby is doing well or not.”

Doctor: “In theater, you can be operating and then power goes off. All of a sudden, total darkness. It can be very tricky, if you have just removed the baby, to tie the bleeders if power has gone off. But now that we have the Solar Suitcase, we can easily switch on. Then we can continue with the operation. Because it can be very difficult even to wait to find somebody to go and switch on the generator, if you are just waiting in the theater. Even 10 minutes, can be dangerous. It will be a very great help for us, because now we just will easily switch on the solar power.”


A pregnant woman at Nsinze Health Center IV:

“They have told me what you brought here—the Solar Suitcase, so that we have light at night, and now I know that my baby will be safe. I am so very, very grateful. So I thank you, madam. Thank you so much, thank you so much.”

Midwife at Nsinze Health Center learning to use the Solar Suitcase lights.








































Class trained at Nsinze Health Center IV


Sulaiman Lule, managing director of Ibulanku HC III:

“Now we’re going to start delivering mothers without fearing the blackouts from hydroelectricity power. We are very grateful for that.” “The WE CARE Solar Suitcase is going to help us a lot because now when mothers deliver at the health center and there is a power blackout because of the power rationing from the hydroelectricity, the patients will find the light on and we shall be delivering the babies when there is enough light and delivering babies safely.”

Midwife at Nsinze Health Center using the headlamp for the first time.

Wonderful job SAFE team!!

Solar Suitcase Installation at Tiriri Health Center IV

This week the SAFE team completed an installation at Tiriri Health Center IV in Atiriri, Uganda. This is also the center at which Ester Madudu — a leader for AMREF’s “Stand Up For African Mothers” campaign — works as a midwife. Before the installation of the Solar Suitcase, when a mother would go into labor at night, Ester would hold a cellular phone with her mouth and help birth the child using the minimal light from the phone. Now, with the Solar Suitcase, Ester and the other midwives can assist with childbirth without worrying about performing lifesaving procedures in darkness. 











Jacquie training Ester and another midwife to operate the Solar Suitcase.


Only five minutes after the installation at Tiriri Health Center was finished, a baby was born prematurely at only 28 weeks gestation and needed to be resuscitated. The Solar Suitcase played a vital role in the successful birth and subsequent resuscitation of this child.