Obstetrician Laura Stachel from Berkeley, CA was on a medical relief mission in Africa when she observed a C-section being performed at night,… by the light of a kerosene lantern. The lantern died during the operation, so the rest of the procedure had to be completed with a flashlight.
She was shocked by the lack of resources available for medical treatment during her visit, so when she returned home she set about trying to come up with solutions.
Her husband works in the solar industry, so he began to experiment with various combinations of solar panels and small lights to invent a portable solar kit that could be used for medical field trips in Africa. Solar power and a small battery system seemed to be the best choice, because villages in rural areas are off-grid but there is abundant sunshine during daylight hours for recharging batteries. Also, small lights could be stored in the same suitcase kit for transportation and protection during trips.
Today, their suitcase solar kits are used in nearly 200 medical clinics in various locations across the planet. Initially, the kit was designed for use in obstetric situations, but now can be employed in any medical emergency or healthcare event.
Key components of the system are solar panels for generating 40 or 80 watts, LED lighting for medical tasks, chargers for batteries and cell phones, and a 12-amp-hour sealed lead acid battery. There are also outlets for 12V DC electronics. This system can also be expanded to accommodate 200 watts of solar panels and a 140-amp-hour sealed battery.
About 15,000 mothers each year are now provided emergency medical care 24 hours a day because of the solar suitcases. Reportedly, over 350,000 mothers die from pregnancy complications each year.
Additionally, these small portable lighting systems don’t generate air pollution by burning kerosene, and don’t have the same potential to start accidental fires.
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Image Credit: We Care Solar