Dr. Laura Stachel realized that she couldn’t do her job as a physician when tending to women giving birth in Nigeria. There were just too many electricity outages and sometimes no light at all in some areas, so many women were dying from childbirth, not because of complications but because of power outages. ”I realized that my skills as an obstetrician-gynecologist were utterly useless [without] something as basic as light and electricity,” she said to CNN.
In fact, Nigeria is a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, where giving birth is a danger to both mother and child. In fact, of all the women who died from childbirth in the world, 14% were from Nigeria.
So she, along with her husband, developed a solar kit that provides light for surgeons to perform operations. The Solar Suitcase is now used in different countries by medical staff. The suitcase includes solar panels that are affixed to the roof a clinic and connected to LED lights that can last 20 hours on a full charge. It also a includes communication system and phone battery charger.
Stachel’s solution to the problem she saw in Nigeria led her to create We Care Solar, a non-profit that promotes the Solar Suitcase and provides it to communities in need free of charge. After installing it in a hospital in 2009, the hospital reported that the maternal death rate had decreased by 70%.
There are actually quite a few innovations such as this one that particularly deal with power outages that are preventing major work from happening. From solar cookers to solar powered bathrooms, these are simple cost-efficient solutions to larger scale infrastructure problems. Stachel is nominated on CNN for their annual CNN Heroes Award.