Technology benefits maternal and child health in Mozambique
For people living in Canada it’s hard – even impossible – to imagine how difficult it would be to deliver a baby by the light of a mouth-held cellphone. But that was a reality in Mozambique, until technology and the bright African sunshine provided a solution in the form of a unit known as a solar suitcase.
As part of a larger initiative to support maternal and child health in Mozambique’s Nampula province, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) – the Anglican Church of Canada’s agency for sustainable development and relief – worked with local agency EHALE and California-based We Care Solar to install the first solar suitcases to power a light source and other necessary equipment in 30 rural clinics in 2016.
The initiative was so successful that the three organizations are now working to install an additional 51 units (one is a demonstration unit at EHALE’s main office). The “suitcase” is mounted to a wall inside the clinic and connected to solar panels on the roof. It opens to include a portable headlamp, phone charging ports and a fetal Doppler to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic, a rechargeable no-contact thermometer.
But PWRDF’s external funding manager Richard Librock says in addition to utilizing the equipment in the solar suitcases to reduce maternal and neo-natal mortality, positive experiences at the clinics often encourage mothers to access other services and be introduced to a more holistic approach to health care.
“Holistic care that can last for a lifetime often starts with a good experience in delivery,” says Mr. Librock. “It’s a great encouragement to the mother and her husband to visit the clinic for post-natal checkups where they can access a range of other services such as nutrition monitoring, vaccines for a range of diseases, and hygiene and sanitation advice that is particularly important in the area where cholera is present.”
The clinics also provide information about family planning, empowering women to take control of their reproductive health, he adds.
Domingas Joaquim gave birth to three of her six children in a clinic after the installation of a solar suitcase.
“If it were not for the solar suitcase, one of my children would have died, or I would have died, because after childbirth the child needed to be resuscitated. Without lighting, it would not be possible,” she says.
PWRDF is accepting funds to support the project – a single solar suitcase, installed, costs about $5,800.
More information: PWRDF.org
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