In a remote Nepalese village Pandavkhani, Hari Sunar, who is just aged 24 is expecting her second child in a few days’ time. She goes to a local center for her final antenatal check-up in a drenching rainstorm and to her despair, the frequent power cuts the village faces have arrived there too.
These power cuts can stay for up to 2 weeks and bring significant difficulties for the birthing center. But this time is different. The power in the birthing center is running and she is smiling. “I am really happy,” the young mum declares, “because we have a solar light at the birthing center.” A bright yellow suitcase lies secured to the wall of the delivery room. It is a solar suitcase which is connected to a solar panel on the roof of the birthing center. It is a miniature power station capable of light, heat, and battery charging and it’s a baby monitor as well.
The idea of the solar suitcase was conceived by California based obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Laura Stachel from We Care Solar organization. Way back in 2008, while she was in Nigeria, she witnessed a lot of difficulties and even deaths when delivering babies at night without a reliable source of light or power. So, she set out to invent a suitcase-sized, off-grid solar electric system with the help of her husband, Hal Aronson. The prototype was an instant success and they decided to bring their innovation to other countries having high maternal and mortality rates.
Weighing in at just 16kg (35lbs), the need for the solar suitcases has never been felt so hard as in the wake of the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal and destroyed many of the hospitals and left much more without any power. The suitcases again proved vital to makeshift medical and birthing tents in the immediate aftermath of the quake. But even without such natural disasters, Nepal still is not able to generate enough electricity and hence the need of solar suitcases is highly crucial for the difference in life-and-death.