Key program launched to ensure sustainable solar power

GreenLamp’s Solar Suitcase Sustainability Program has been successfully launched to ensure the longevity of our Light for Life initiative, in partnership with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and Solar Energy Foundation Ethiopia, and supported by a long-term commitment from the Ethiopian Regional Health Bureaus.

Two members of GreenLamp’s Project Team who have both been closely involved with developing the comprehensive program, Kathleen Hedman and Joanna Boyd, went to Ethiopia to support the local team and reinforce our collaboration as the Sustainability Program got underway in January.

The Solar Suitcases generate medical-quality light and power for fetal dopplers and mobile phone charging for midwives in rural health centres. The suitcases have a useful life of 15 years and need regular maintenance, including new batteries, troubleshooting, refresher training for health centre staff, and an independent supervision and reporting system.

We are pleased to have established an excellent collaboration with Samson Tsegaye from Solar Energy Foundation Ethiopia and Tefera Tesfamichael (above left), Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia GreenLamp Project Coordinator. Both men are instrumental in assisting us to implement the program, and are continuing to carry out the work within COVID-19 restrictions, via phone support where necessary.

High staff turnover at health centres can contribute to a lack of understanding of how the Solar Suitcase works, resulting in ineffective use and occasional damage. Ongoing training is vital to ensure the Solar Suitcases continue to be used correctly. Crucial refresher training for midwives and technical staff is provided by Samson and his team of technicians, along with all other maintenance of the solar-powered suitcases, during at least one physical visit per year. Health centre staff are also encouraged to contact Samson for troubleshooting advice over the phone, so they can carry out some minor ongoing maintenance themselves where possible in between visits.

Ongoing supervision, including an annual review and reporting on six different key performance indicators, is handled by Tefera who helps the GreenLamp Project Team ensure the lights are always on. He calls health centres and checks that things are working as planned, interacts with Samson if there is a problem, connects with midwives, and involves the regional health authorities where necessary. By including the midwives in the problem solving process, our intention is that they will build the skills and confidence to make improvements for themselves to their working environment in the future.

The program is comprehensive and ensures that the Solar Suitcases continue to work well, assisting the dedicated midwives to provide a high standard of care for mothers and babies, especially at night. We continue to install new solar power lighting at health centres where Hamlin graduated midwives are deployed.