Solar power harnessed for safe motherhood

Posted: 16 July 2008

Solar powered DVD players are being used by a reproductive health charity to show films on safe motherhood in remote and isolated villages.

Two versions of a portable solar powered DVD player are being used in Ethiopia by SafeHands for Mothers, a charity dedicated to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and protecting the health of the newborn.

Solar DVD player Ethiopia
Solar DVD player Ethiopia
Solar DVD player, in use in the late afternoon in a remote village, Ethiopia. The solar array is the black material in the foreground. Photo Nancy Durrell-McKenna
SafeHands is working in Ethiopia in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia to train Government Health Extension Workers (HEWs) - the front line female health workers - how to use film and the solar equipment within their programmes.

SafeHands' film, The Big Push, making pregnancy safer, Ethiopia, has been integrated into the national curricula for upgrading the HEW skills in safe and clean delivery.

Currently there are 25,000 HEWs who work from rural Health Posts at the grass roots level. They often walk up to 6 hours a day to visit households where they encourage the use of family planning, immunisation, aspects of health and sanitation and advocate against child marriage and other harmful practices.

The solar powered educational DVD player was developed by Welsh company Dulas Ltd. to enable high-quality training in remote areas where there is no electricity supply. The brief was that the equipment had to be sufficiently robust to go into the side saddle of a camel and light enough to be carried in a backpack. It has a 17-inch LCD screen and uses a foldable 20-watt solar array which charges a 12-volt battery.

The portable DVD pack minimises costs of training and maximises the number of people reached by one extension worker.