A Personal Touch

During every trip GreenLamp makes to Ethiopia, we visit at least two rural health centres to check the Solar Suitcase are working. We also talk to the health centre workers, including midwives, to check for any technical and maintenance issues, as well as to obtain feedback and ideas for improvements. Below Joanna Boyd tells us about just such a recent trip as part of the new ‘Battery Replacement Programme,’ which is ensuring the Solar Suitcases continue to work effectively as their batteries wear out:

“The GreenLamp Project Team; myself and Kathleen Hedman (left in photo), joined by Linda Elzvik, recently travelled to Ethiopia to meet with the partner team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

The main goal of the trip was to kick-off the new “Battery Replacement Program” with our new partner and solar specialist Solar Energy Federation (SEF) headed by Samson Tsegaye. SEF have technicians in all regions of Ethiopia and are a recognised Ethiopian NGO, making an ideal partner to carry out the installation review and battery replacement work.

GreenLamp had arranged the purchase and transportation of over 200 new, high-quality batteries so we had a couple ready to take with us on our trip to visit two health centres in East Harare, Oromia.

On this trip we visited the Kurfa Ch’ele & Daawee health centres which were about three hours drive by bumpy dirt road, we enjoyed it none-the-less for its dry and rocky landscape, especially when the children would greet us as “farangie” or “foreigner”! The health centers vary in size but are all very basic brick buildings, they lack running water as well as electricity, and water is often brought by bucket or jerry can on donkeys or trucks as the rain run-off systems are generally not adequate for the amount of water needed.

Karfa Ch'ele health centre with new battery in place

At the health centres Kathleen, Linda and I got feedback from the midwives, explained how to use a new maintenance logbook for the Solar Suitcases and checked any on needs for the future. The new batteries were installed, and the lights are now strong and reliable again.

GreenLamp are developing a Measurement and Evaluation Framework to strengthen the sustainability of the Solar Suitcase project, so we also reviewed the official regional maternal health and birth registers – large hand written books, to see how often the Solar Suitcases were used for nighttime deliveries. They were used for about 75% to 80% of deliveries on average.

On our trip back we saw many beautiful cows, goats and donkeys being driven along the road. The local farmers had made shelters and were enjoying some time to chat, eat, drink and exchange stories about those strange “farangies” – where were they from?”