The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga says that the Budget and Health Committees will work with the responsible Ministries to implement the ‘Light the Birth’ initiative that is aimed at supplying health facilities with solar power under a programme dubbed We Care Solar.
Kadaga delegated the Committees to work with the Ministry of Health and that of Energy to provide the necessary funding required for supporting the initiative which is aimed at supplying solar equipment to health centres in order to curb maternal mortality rates resulting from power shortages.
“I met the co-founder, Dr. Laura Stachel at a conference abroad and she intimated to me that she had been trying to implement this idea in our country but had not received much support from the government,” she said, adding that, “we should do whatever we can to support her because this initiative touches us.”
Dr. Stachel, while meeting the Speaker, said that during her time working in Nigeria she had noticed that there are issues of irregular electricity in Africa that lead to many women losing their lives due to maternal or child birth complications arising during power cuts.
“I told my husband, Hal Elenson about this issue and he offered a solution by designing the solar suitcase with solar panels linked to a battery system, and lighting equipment useable in remote areas and power charging for mobile phones,” she said.
Dr. Stachel said that the solar suitcase is designed to be used in medical facilities with lights that can be hung on intravenous poles and head band torches that are worn and used during medical procedures.
She added that with the suitcase is able to charge a phone and a female Doppler radar used to detect the child’s condition in the womb.
Dr. Stachel said that, “We have also trained women to install the solar suitcase and to use some of the equipment. We initially brought 145 to four districts and recently 445 more to be supplied to 22 districts with health centres identified to be suffering power cuts and high maternal mortality rates.”
She further noted, “Our dream is to bring these devices to all health centres in the country under a programme we call “light a birth”. However, we approached the Ministry of Health but they were unsure about funding.”
Dr. Stachel said that they had identified 212 health centres with power issues.
“All we need is Ushs 200 million from the government to support the project especially in training people to operate the equipment and in maintenance because we do not want the equipment to die out after we have left,” she said.
However, the Minister of Health, Jane Aceng said that she had issues of mobilising resources.
“I consulted with the Ministry of Finance and even tried to look around within my Ministry but could not find the money because all resources were detected to various projects which are equally underfunded,” she said.
Aceng, however noted that, “We, on the other hand are ready to offer maintenance support but we have no more counterpart funding.”
Hon. Amos Lugoloobi, the Chairperson of the Budget Committee said that he was convinced that the project was worth supporting.
“We can find a way of providing that money; we cannot fail this preposition whose benefits outweigh the cost because we will be saving lives,” he added.
Lugoloobi promised that his Committee would harmonise with that of Health and its line Ministry to forge a way forward and provide the funding and necessary support towards the initiative.