PNG ranks in the bottom half of the global maternal mortality index according to World Bank data. Rural areas without reliable electricity pose the greatest danger to women in labour. MAF is partnering with Dr Freda Wemin to roll out ‘Mama’s Waiting Hut’ initiative, which uses solar power to light remote clinics, making childbirth safer. MAF’s Joy Suarkia reports…
Papua New Guinea ranks 129 out of 185 countries in the World Bank’s maternal mortality index.
PNG has a population of nearly nine million people, but only 13% (1.16 million people out of 8.9 million) have access to grid-connected electricity (source: World Bank).
With a huge rural population of 87%, most Papua New Guineans – like those living in Eastern Highlands Province – do not have access to reliable power or sufficient lighting, which are critical to healthcare provision including midwifery services.
Unsafe and inadequate health infrastructure in such a remote setting leaves women feeling vulnerable. They have little choice but to give birth at home, relying on traditional birth attendants, often delivering in the dark.
Without sufficient lighting, both mother and baby are in danger.
Mama’s Waiting Hut project – a solar power solution
Gynaecologist Dr Freda Wemin decided to tackle maternal mortality rates in rural PNG by setting up the ‘Mama Waiting Hut’ lighting project’ – a solar power initiative rolled out by MAF Technologies PNG and supported by PNG’s Provincial Health Authorities.
To date – thanks to the installation of mini solar power kits – 15 health centres in Eastern Highlands Province now have access to reliable energy and sufficient lighting. These centres range from huts to labour wards and clinics.
The Nupuru Health Centre thanks MAF for transforming their labour wards and maternal waiting huts:
‘Thank you very much for the solar light kit we received under the Mama’s Waiting Hut lighting project.
‘You have met our lighting needs during the night when many of our patients go into labour. Only last month we lost a mother partly due to lighting difficulties.’
The Nupuru Health Centre, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
Babies are delivered by torch light
MAF Technologies PNG electrician Simeon Tom has been carrying out the solar installations and has witnessed first-hand the dire need for lighting:
‘The only source of light available is from torches that the community health workers use, but once the battery goes, they are left to rely on their mobile phone torch, which runs down the phone battery very quickly.
‘Until I did this installation for the Mama’s Waiting Hut lighting project, I never knew how challenging it was for mothers in remote communities who need help during labour. Solar power will have a huge impact on the lives of the mother, her unborn child and the community health worker.’
Simeon can feel the palpable sense of relief from community health workers and expectant mothers living within the vicinity of the 15 health centres, which now have 24/7 reliable power.
Eventually, it’s hoped that every rural clinic across PNG will benefit from this service, ultimately saving more lives during childbirth.
MAF Technologies PNG also reduce maternal mortality through radio technology