We no longer use torches to deliver babies

Abul Yai

It's 10 am in Mother Theresa Hospital and sitting in the far corner of the maternity ward is Abul Yai, a 20-year-old mother who has just delivered her third child. Filled with happiness and enthusiasm while holding her little one in the hospital serving a population of almost 355,000 in Twic County, Warrap State. 

Through the World Bank supported health facilities’ solarisation initiative across South Sudan, Mother Theresa Hospital, run by a HealthNet TPO, a Dutch NGO, can be run completely on solar power – an event that ended periods of darkness to a medical centre that was entirely dependent on expensive and unstable diesel generators.    

The power extension to the maternity ward according to the facility’s administration is among the key major factors that contributed to Abul’s safe delivery.

“But when you deliver at home, and there is no nearby facility, a mother and a child can’t easily be treated when they are unwell; that is why the existence of this hospital is so important to us, the mothers and the people in Turalei town” Abul narrated. 

Elizabeth Athook Akol is one of the eight government-registered midwives deployed at Mother Theresa Hospital. For Athook who has attended to over 100 babies in the last year, the solarisation of the facility is contributing to reducing the number of women and children who die during childbirth. 

According to Athook, the solar power availability at the Mother Theresa Hospital has changed the way she and her colleagues provide healthcare services to their patients, stressing how the connectivity has also improved the quality of care they deliver to many children and women.

“Months ago, we had a tough case, where a baby was born with epistaxis, the baby had breathing difficulties, but we sacked the baby and placed him under oxygen until he was referred. That incident would have turned fatal if we never had the power to run the gas cylinders,” Elizabeth revealed. 

She went on to state that the facility is also now able to carry out laboratory tests for pregnant mothers – tests that were previously unavailable, too expensive and would interrupt the medical processes. 

“So far, we are seeing a bright future with power availability. Before, we were struggling to deliver babies with torches. An occasion that limited disease prevention control, but now I no longer double balance, holding a torch here and running back again to check on the mother in labour” she concluded.

Renowned for saving lives

Mother Theresa Hospital is among the 72 facilities solarised by UNICEF in Warrap State under the World Bank project aimed at supporting the country's sustainable, cost-effective, and efficient power supply for longer, quality healthcare service provision at health facilities.  Implemented by UNICEF, the program also intends to deliver quality healthcare for all, with vaccines required to maintain a cold chain temperature of +2°C to +8°C.

Eimani Florence – HealthNet TPO’s deployed Hospital Coordinator revealed that the solarisation idea has positively impacted the hospital and the surrounding community.

“Secondly, we now know our vaccines are safe, the gas cylinders are operational and soon we shall have our theatre which is undergoing renovation connected as well. The 24/7 operationalization of this facility has limited referrals, and this has enhanced saving of lives all because of the solarization,” said Florence.

Florence notes that the solarization project was done in consultation with the community leaders and community members. With increased ownership by the community, more women are coming to the facility to deliver. She affirms with nostalgia the reduction in the number of new-born babies referred to Mayen Abun Hospital to access oxygen.

Commenting on the initiative, Dr. Paul Okot – UNICEF Health Specialist for the Western Bah El Ghazal region, confirms that the approach has tremendously reduced the overreliance on expensive fuel-powered generators and thus enabling health facilities to extend their hours of operation, making it more convenient for families to bring their children in for immunisation, nutrition, and healthcare services.

“Before we used to spend a lot of money on fuel to support the generators that were in the health facilities to run the cold chain systems in seven counties. Now we save 4000 litres of fuel from supporting these facilities. Additionally, the solarization project has enabled the integration of health services with nutrition and WASH services.

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Geographic area:
Sub-Saharan Africa