Monday, October 24, 2011

Solar Suitcase Gives Power To Hospitals In Developing Countries

Dr. Laura Stachel's We Care Solar Suitcase received the Nokia Health Award Thursday at the 10th annual Tech Awards in San Jose, Calif.

We Care Solar stands for Women's Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity. The Berkeley, Calif.-based non-profit organization puts solar energy systems into a suitcase to allow medical facilities in developing countries and disaster areas easy access to power even when off-grid, according to CNET. Dozens are in use in Nigeria and five other countries, with more to follow.

Stachel, an OB/GYN, told The San Francisco Chronicle that she got the idea for the suitcase in 2008 after visiting a hospital in Nigeria, which accounts for 10% of the world's maternal deaths. Stachel found that the clinic couldn't afford electricity at all times of the day.

"To think that you have to wonder whether you're going to die every time you get pregnant in some countries is such an injustice," she said. "Once we saw what was going on, it was impossible to turn our back on it."
Hal Aronson, Stachel's husband, developed a prototype suitcase with a folding solar panel, a replaceable battery, a charge controller to regulate energy flow, and a number of sockets. The packages also include headlamps, solar lanterns and walkie-talkies. After delivering the first prototype of the suitcase to the hospital, the deaths dropped by 70 percent.

"It's been a driving force for us doing this now for three years. This experience really changed our lives completely," Stachel told the newspaper.

The award, sponsored by San Jose's The Tech Museum, came with a $50,000 prize awarded to five projects that support sustainability and benefit humanity.


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