Distributing power in health clinics to save moms and babies in Sierra Leone

We Care Solar

At a glance

We Care Solar is solving one of the major barriers to medical care and safe childbirth in rural, underserved communities across Africa and Asia – lack of or unreliable electric power. Only five of the 16 district capitals in Sierra Leone have a partial supply of electricity from small diesel generators and mini-hydropower plants.1 For the remainder of the country, rural electrification is almost non-existent.

The partners

We Care Solar was founded in 2008 with the vision that every pregnant woman experience access to prompt, appropriate care in well-equipped health centers. Co-founded by a husband-wife team – a solar innovator and an obstetrician – We Care Solar has been recognized as a world-leading innovator in both the health and clean energy spaces.

The problem

Every year an estimated 2.5 million newborn babies, and about 295,000 women globally, die of pregnancy-related complications.2

Sierra Leone has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world: the lifetime risk of a woman dying from pregnancy-related causes is about five percent.3
The vast majority of these deaths are easily preventable. Often the tools and trained health staff are available. But many deaths occur because these communities lack something we take for granted: electricity.

Only 28 percent of sub-Saharan Africa health facilities had reliable electricity, and 26 percent had no electricity at all.4

The solution

Reliable lighting and power is essential to reduce maternal and newborn mortality at last-mile health centers.

We Care Solar’s Solar Suitcase provides light, charging stations for mobile phones, and a fetal Doppler for monitoring and diagnosis. Its medical lights last for 70,000 hours. Solar panels recharge the system fully each day, ensuring light throughout the night. The battery requires no maintenance and lasts for five years before needing a simple replacement.

With the reliable power provided by the Solar Suitcase, midwives and other health workers can:

  • Provide safer, timelier, and more effective routine and emergency obstetric care;
  • Detect fetal well-being or distress more easily;
  • Be more confident in treating standard complications such as hemorrhage and obstetric lacerations, and ensure proper neonatal resuscitations;
  • Make emergency referrals more promptly; and
  • Conduct prompt and timely surgical care, such as nighttime cesarean sections.

The evidence

With support from UBS Optimus Foundation, We Care Solar in 2017 established its first-ever countrywide initiative to light every birth in Liberia, in collaboration with the Liberian Government.

Liberia is We Care Solar's first Light Every Birth success. With partners, We Care Solar equipped 430 health centers with Solar Suitcases and trained 2,203 health workers to use the technology. Now, every eligible health center in Liberia has clean energy for safe childbirth.

An independent evaluation of the Liberia program revealed marked improvements in facilities using Solar Suitcases in light and electricity availability, fetal monitoring and facility cost savings.

The Impact

  • Install 200 Solar Suitcases, serving 400,000 mothers and newborns over five years.
  • Conduct routine maintenance on Solar Suitcases, including battery replacement, serving an additional 400,000 beneficiaries over five years
  • Refurbish 121 Solar Suitcases installed in 2012-2013, serving an additional 242,000 beneficiaries over five years

We Care Solar works towards SDGs: