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!!

Stand Up for Women in Uganda

SAFE stands with Health GAP (Global Access Project) in encouraging the Ugandan government to take action against maternal mortality and morbidity in Uganda by increasing the number of health care workers.

Later this week, a Ugandan court will hear the case of 2 women who died in childbirth, which argues that by failing to provide appropriate health services, the government is violating the Ugandan constitution. Every day, 16 women in Uganda die in childbirth, while 6 times as many are injured in incapacitating ways. SAFE affirms that these deaths and injuries are unacceptable–and that action must be taken to help Ugandan women realize their rights! For more information, please check out the following link: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5712/p/salsa/web/questionnaire/public/?questionnaire_KEY=665