Lack of electricity is a major barrier to the delivery of quality healthcare services, and one that particularly impacts rural communities across the continent
BY SILAS APOLLO
Close to 600 health clinics across sub-Saharan Africa are now able to provide care and treatment to patients outside of daylight hours, thanks to solar-powered lights and off-grid energy systems donated by d.light, a company that provides household products and affordable finance to low-income households and communities.
This means that the clinics can now extend their operating hours, including for expectant mothers in labour who would otherwise have given birth in darkness.
“Before d.light, we would be looking for torchlight in the middle of the night to deliver babies. We no longer have to go through that stress,” said Dr Ajayi Olaluwa, chief matron at Omatosu Basic Health Centre in the town of Okitipupa in Ondo State, southwest Nigeria.
At the moment, World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that close to one billion people in low- and lower-middle-income countries are served by healthcare facilities without reliable electricity access or with no electricity access at all.
The WHO data indicates that close to 15% of healthcare facilities lack any access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, whilst only 50% of hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa report reliable energy access.
Lack of electricity is a major barrier to the delivery of quality healthcare services, and one that particularly impacts rural communities across the continent. And, according to Unicef, the lifetime risk of maternal death ranges from 1 in 5,300 in high income countries to 1 in 49 in low-income countries.
For example, in Western Europe, the rate is 1 in 11,000. This rate is drastically and fatally higher in the African continent. However, in sub-Saharan Africa the rate is 1 in 41, and Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for 70% of global maternal deaths in 2020.
Ms Olanrewaju Emilia Olanike, chief matron at a primary healthcare centre in the Ife South local government area (LGA) of Osun State in Nigeria, described the impact of the solar lanterns on the clinic and its patients.
“In the Olode area we have been experiencing a 10-year power outage, so before today we did not have a power supply. The installation of this alternate power supply means that our clients who were afraid of coming to us in the night have now been coming. It makes our job easier especially during labour and delivery cases at night,” she said.
Since d.light was founded in 2007, the company has transformed the lives of 150 million people worldwide. The majority (55.5%) of the company’s customers live in sub-Saharan Africa, including 45% in East Africa. Its range of household products include solar-powered lanterns, cookstoves, solar home systems, TVs, radios, and smartphones, together with its low-cost payment plans that allow customers to pay for their products over time.
“I remember early on in d.light’s history, a nurse shared with me that she had already delivered 15 babies with d.light’s products. Before, they had been delivering babies using only dangerous kerosene lanterns, or they would even have to turn pregnant women away if they were in labour in the middle of the night,” said d.light co-founder Ned Tozun said.
“With d.light’s solar-powered products, expectant mothers no longer have to give birth in darkness. Clinic staff can also admit and care for other patients at night more easily when there’s a safe source of light available. Patients find the light of the d.light lantern comforting when they’re being treated,” Tozun added.