Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spreading Light

UPDATE: The solar power manufacturer we used at the second clinic is Barefoot Power.

Recently, I heard a statistic that surprised me - 86% of Uganda is without power (granted, I have no idea where this comes from). While I find this hard to believe, I spend most of my time in Mbarara, which is a pretty well developed town in the southwest. Up in the mountains at the work camp north of Kasese, there is no power for at least 10 miles in any direction.

So whatever the statistic, power is a precious commodity in much of Uganda. And that's especially true when it comes to health care. Medical emergencies don't wait for daylight - some issues have to be resolved immediately. Delivering a baby or performing a C-Secion by the light of a gas lantern is a dangerous task.

Providing light is therefore important, and it is the primary goal of WE CARE solar. WE CARE works with clinics in several African countries to provide a packaged solar solution, allowing for quick installation and ease of use. The package comes with the solar equipment (panels, charge controller, breakers, etc) and a series of lights for use in the clinic (headlamps, overhead lights). It also comes with batteries and a cigarette outlet for using DC power cables (for use in charging mobile phones, for example).

My fiancee is partnering with WE CARE for part of her dissertation research, and so I accompanied her to a small town outside of Ibanda to explain to the clinic what they were receiving, how it should be used, and what they could expect from it. The owner was very happy to participate in my fiancee's study and to utilize the new solar gear. She will be working with the clinic for the next few months to observe how the solar items are used (and of course to conduct her own separate research).

On the way back from Ibanda, we stopped at a second clinic participating in the study. This clinic received a smaller commercial product called the Pawa Pack by Barefoot Power, which comes with some lights and a 5 watt panel. It's quite small, but it will be used only for lighting.

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