How a yellow suitcase is helping expecting mothers and newborns around the world

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The yellow suitcase designed by Hal Aronson has saved many young mothers and newborns. Learn how expecting mothers can prepare themselves during emergencies.

When Dr Laura Satchel went to Northern Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal morality, she saw deplorable conditions of state facilities. Sporadic electricity and cesarean sections in the dark were routine.

This situation dramatically impaired surgical and maternity care and led her to help the cause of maternal morality through the ‘yellow suitcase.’

This, of course, is not Dr Satchel’s story. It is the story of the yellow suitcase that is illuminating the lives of several mothers and newborns across the globe.

Origin of the yellow suitcase  

During her 2008 stint in Nigeria, Dr Satchel realised the urgent need for maternity care including facilities for nighttime cesarean sections. She decided to take it upon herself to help these women in need.

She promptly wrote to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator in Berkley, California. Together, the couple founded WE CARE Solar to improve maternal healthcare in areas that had uninterrupted and reliable electricity.

Aronson designed a solar suitcase that could charge headlamps and walkie-talkies needed during operations at the hospital.

In Uganda, another delivery room has reliable lighting thanks to the Solar Suitcase! We Care Solar's Merritt Gates…

Posted by WE CARE Solar on Saturday, 9 January 2016

Momentum of the suitcase grows

The suitcase of course has become almost like a beacon of hope for areas affected with sparse electricity and urgent need for maternity care. Starting from Nigeria in 2008, the suitcase reached Haiti in 2010 and according to wecaresolar.org, “As of November 2015, approximately 1,300 solar suitcases have been assembled and sent to 27 countries around the world. We have developed regional programs in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines.”

One of our favorite moments from 2015: When this Nepalese midwife delivered the first baby under the Solar Suitcase…

Posted by WE CARE Solar on Thursday, 31 December 2015

This year We Care Solar will begin programmes in Ghana.

Continue reading to know emergency preparedness for pregnant mothers.

Emergency preparedness for pregnant mothers

An expectant mother is always at an increased risk during an emergency; and therefore, some experts suggest that family members including the expecting mother should take childbirth education classes to be more prepared.

yellow suitcase

An expecting mother is at an increased risk of danger during emergencies

However, if you have not taken any such class, follow these 5 simple steps to stay protected during an emergency:

  • If you are expecting, ask your doctor how to prepare for an emergency birth; talk about labour and delivery as major topics during this discussion.
  • Food and water may not be safe for expectant mothers and babies during an emergency. Learn how to keep food safe and water clean in tight lid bottles. Also learn to wash pots and pans when clean water supply is limited.
  • Keep yourself prepared with a class on child and infant Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Prepare a disaster supplies kit and include three-day supply of water and food, first-aid kit, medications, baby formula, diaper and wipes, household and sanitary supplies, keys and important identity documentation.
  • You must know how to breastfeed your baby. So ask your doctor to give you breastfeeding classes since it will provide immunity to the baby and keep him away from contaminated water.

Following these basic steps can secure an expectant mother during an emergency.

(Image courtesy: wecaresolar.org)

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj