Fifty percent of students in the developing world go to schools without electricity according to the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Most don’t have light at home either. They can’t read, do homework or study for national exams without the use of expensive candles and kerosene lamps that come with the risk of smoke inhalation, eye-strain, and fire. The same is true for their teachers, many of whom turn down rural teaching positions because of this reality.
Additionally, according to Practical Action’s Poor People’s Energy Outlook 2013, 30% of medical clinics in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity. These facilities are nearly invisible at night to those who need them. Midwives can barely see the women who come in for maternity services; clinic staff struggles to diagnose and treat patients needing urgent care. These clinics can’t even store vaccines to serve their communities, as the same report mentioned above also states that nearly half of all vaccines delivered to the developing world spoil due to lack of refrigeration.
According to the International Energy Agency, there are 1.3 billion people today without access to electricity, and 599 million of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. Without electricity, not only do they struggle with the challenges above, but they are unable to pump clean water from below ground. At best, they use hand pumps that often break down, and often have to walk for long distances and wait in line just to bring water home to their families. At worst, they have no water. Women spend their days searching for dirty water to bring home to their families – water that they know could make them sick, but they have no other choice. They have little to drink, and even less to irrigate, leading to hunger, malnutrition, and an unending cycle of poverty.
For us, energy is not a goal in and of itself. It is a means to an end-a tool to improve the caliber of rural healthcare and education, to provide rural people with clean water, food security and economic growth.