Improving Healthcare with Solar Power in Ethiopia

Little Sun and Solar Kiosk bring solar energy to Ethiopia’s rural health clinics. 

The vast majority of health facilities across Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Imagine having a medical emergency at night or delivering a baby without light! One tragic effect of poor facilities is poor treatment, and for this reason, Ethiopia has one of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths in the world. Women have a one-in-52 chance of dying from childbirth-related causes each year. More than 60 percent of infant deaths in Ethiopia are neonatal. Despite the Ethiopian government’s attempts to improve the health system, and ongoing health facility electrification programme, a great deal of health centres and health posts are in need of solar energy.

Most rural health care centres will never be connected to the electrical grid. Providing power in these remote settings has traditionally relied upon expensive and difficult to maintain diesel generators, or high tech battery based integrated solar systems. Unfortunately the cost for both of these solutions is very high and so they are often not implemented, and when they are, it’s common that they fail early on, due to poor maintenance and high running costs.

Our extensive work in Sub-Saharan Africa has shown us that lack of affordable energy solutions is a huge problem. We see the same struggles for energy access over and over again, every time we visit rural villages. Providing solar power for health is a high priority for Little Sun, and Solar Kiosk have great ideas for solving the energy access problem, by making the infrastructure for sustainable systems.

Our short term plan is to provide personal portable solar lamps and phone chargers so that remote health centres will have access to the critically needed light and communication facilities. Solar Kiosk has piloted this high impact per dollar spent in Rira Health Clinic, rural Ethiopia. At this remote health clinic situated on a mountain side near Bale national park, adequate medical equipment is scarce, and a reliable energy source is non- existent. Midwives are forced to deliver babies in the dark. Solar Kiosk recognised the pressing need for a safe and sustainable energy solution, and plan to implement the use of Little Sun solar lamps and Charges throughout the health centre. Little Sun will be evaluating the impact of this innovative approach to see if it makes sense to expand this experimental model across the whole continent.

Listening to the stories of health service providers in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa is always a good reminder of the importance of light. The first feedback we received from health workers about the Little Sun solar lamps was extremely positive. The next child born in the local clinic will be born into safe, clean, solar light!


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