Maternal health in Uganda continues to be compromised as a result of a lacking government. As described in the following article, it is not for a dearth of ideas of how to improve the access and quality of maternal and neonatal healthcare; rather, it is the lack of action on these ideas that results in so many preventable deaths.
The article also highlights the fact that many of these deaths happen because there is no light to ensure easy deliveries and safe emergency procedures to deal with complications during childbirth. SAFE is doing as much as we can through the Light the Night program to help eradicate this fundamental problem, but the Ugandan government must also take action to protect women’s rights and the health of mothers and babies.
Check out the article below:
We are so excited to share that Women Deliver featured “Light the Night”–our joint project with WE CARE Solar lighting up rural health centers and hospitals all over Uganda (including partnerships with AMREF Uganda and the White Ribbon Alliance Uganda)–on their Facebook Page and blog! SAFE is honored to be counted among the many other incredible solutions that Women Deliver features on a regular basis. Woohoo! Check it out here: http://www.womendeliver.org/updates/entry/celebrate-solutions-solar-energy-for-safer-births/
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!
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|
“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!!
On Sunday, December 18th and Monday the 19th, the group had several meetings with community leaders and partner organizations to discuss the installation of the devices. At the first stop, Ibulanku Health Center, the group met with the individual in charge, Sulamain Lule, who was very excited about the installations of the Humless units, which he said, according to Jacquie, will be a great step in “strengthening all the facets of the local health system.”
“I talked about how it was now their Solar Suitcase—that it was for them, their babies, and their families, so that the health providers could provide better care. I talked with them about helping the providers ensure that the Suitcase was used properly, that it wasn’t used to charge other people’s phones, and that nothing would get stolen, because then the power wouldn’t work anymore. They all promised to “join hands” in “their project.”
On Wednesday, the group installed one out of the two Solar Suitcases at the Iganga District Hospital. Despite some challenges with time constraints, the SAFE group was very happy to have done this installation, for unsurprisingly that night there was a power outage during an emergency cesarean section. But, according to the OR nurse, the Solar Suitcase remedied the problem very effectively:
|WE CARE Solar Co-founders Laura Stachel, MD (Executive Director) and Hal Aronson
(Technology Director) with SAFE’s Jacquie and Richard Cutts (and their son, Jacob).
|Solar Suitcases at the MRI factory in California, being prepared for shipment!|
|Fully assembled Solar Suitcases, being shipped THIS WEEK!!!|
From December 18th to December 31st, SAFE Founder Jacqueline Cutts and SAFE Technical Director Richard Cutts (also Jacquie’s husband) will be in Uganda to implement the Light the Night project. The objectives for the trip include:
- Receiving the 20 WE CARE Solar Suitcases and 6 Humless solar units.
- Installing 2 Solar Suitcases in the Jinja National Referral Hospital, and training the project partners in the installation of the units at the same time.
- Training SAFE’s in-country staff in the installation, use, and repair of the WE CARE Solar Suitcases, so that the remaining Solar Suitcases can be installed post Cutts’-departure.
- Installing 2 Humless Solar units at the Iganga District Hospital, 3 Humless Solar units at Ibulanku Health Center, and installing 1 Humless solar unit at Bukoteka Health Center.
- Hosting 1 community health fair to provide immunizations to 600 women and children while simultaneously improving awareness of the solar unit installations and the eRanger program.
- Providing medical supplies to Bukoteka Health Center, who hasn’t been given any by their funding agency for almost a year.
- Exploring ways to provide a source of income for the Bukoteka doctor and nurse, who haven’t been paid for a year either (exploring gift of a dairy heifer, milk-producing goat, or organic farming equipment, the byproducts of which could provide them with food or money).
- Meeting with SAFE’s partnered women’s and men’s groups.
- Checking in on all of SAFE’s projects.
Jacquie and Richard are excited to be undertaking these projects! If you would like to help, please send your donation to:
It is our great pleasure to share that Safe Mothers, Safe Babies has been co-awarded a large grant with parter WE CARE Solar from the Segal Family Foundation for Light the Night. This will provide funding for SAFE to install a total of 20 WE CARE Solar Suitcases in Ugandan health facilities, and allow us to do participatory, demand-generating outreach in the catchment areas of several of those institutions. So excited, and full of gratitude for great partners and supporters!
SAFE Founder, Jacquie Cutts, and husband/SAFE Technology Director, Richard Cutts, will be flying to Uganda in December to implement the project. Check back for updates soon!