Pregnancy complications claim the lives of 303,000 women and over a million newborns each year. The absence of a stable source of electricity remains a crucial factor contributing to high maternal and newborn mortality rates in low-income countries.
We work in remote areas in Africa and Asia where more than one billion people live without access to modern electricity. The World Health Organization reported that only 28% of health facilities and 34% of hospitals had an intermittent supply of electricity in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. One in four health facilities had no electricity at all.
The consequences can be tragic – particularly for maternal-child healthcare. Health workers struggle at night by kerosene lantern or candlelight, unable to detect life-threatening conditions or provide essential services.
Life-saving medical procedures, including cesarean sections, can be postponed or canceled. Midwives may be unable to adequately assess newborns for complications, birth defects, or asphyxia. They cannot use essential medical devices, or make phone calls for emergency referrals. Critically ill patients have turned away from hospitals lacking electricity, and we have heard numerous accounts of expectant mothers who have died after being sent away. Mothers and newborns in the developing world die every day giving birth in badly lit or unlit and unsafe conditions.