Empowering Digital Health Innovators with Solar: Little Sun partners with BRAC and John Snow R&T Institute, Inc. in Uganda and Ethiopia

The partnership will support state-of-the-art solar-powered phone chargers to strengthen health systems in remote areas

KAMPALA, UGANDA — BRAC Uganda and John Snow R&T Institute, Inc. win the request for proposals by Little Sun, and will receive a total of 648 Little Sun Charges, state-of-the-art solar-powered phone chargers, to strengthen health systems in remote areas without access to electricity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chargers will be delivered to local teams of Community Health Workers and Technicians in Uganda and Ethiopia.

COVID-19 has brought to light the many challenges confronting health systems around the world. In addition to national limitations in medical equipment and testing capacities, people living in remote areas lack sufficient access to medical care and in Ethiopia alone, 95% of all rural health posts are non-electrified.

Digital Health technologies employing app-based digital tools on smartphones can help overcome these challenges. For successful implementation however, reliable access to electricity is vital.

“Digital health is changing and improving the quality of health provision at the last mile but it can’t work without keeping smartphones charged. We’ve learned from Community Health workers across Africa that a powerful, portable solar phone charger is a game changer. This is why we are very excited to partner with BRAC and JSI to make sure their staff have the access to energy they need to provide their important health care work, especially now during the pandemic,” says Mason Huffine, Little Sun’s Director of Humanitarian Affairs.

BRAC and JSI convinced the team with their program proposals and will each receive 324 Little Sun Charges to equip their frontline health care workers with solar to power their efforts in Uganda and Ethiopia.

“Health extension workers are usually stationed at their health post, and reside in the Kebele [neighborhood] they serve, so that they will be close to the community at all times. But rural Ethiopia has little or no access to electricity and interruptions are frequent. This means our health extension workers sometimes have to travel up to 10 kms to the next urban area just to charge their phones. The portable solar chargers will save them valuable time and energy that can be used to deliver health services to women and children,” says Anteneh Kinfe, eCHIS Team Leader John Snow R&T Institute, Inc.

“The 324 phone chargers will be distributed to a local all-women team of Community Health Workers and Technicians in Northern and Eastern Uganda. They operate in distant and hard to reach places without power. The solar charger from Little Sun is a help-in-time. They provide solar energy and ensure that our community health workers can provide uninterrupted and much needed health services to households at the last mile,” says Dr. George Owuor Matete, Country Director, BRAC Uganda.

The Little Sun Charge combines Digital Health care with reliable solar energy – a promising and sustainable combination that can make a real difference in the provision of health care in everyday life, but especially during the pandemic. The Little Sun Charge was specifically designed with a large solar panel and high capacity battery to power any kind of smartphone.

BRAC operates community health worker (CHW) programs in several countries across Africa and Asia, providing its essential health care model with a focus on maternal and child health, infectious diseases, nutrition, family planning and non-communicable diseases. Since 2007, BRAC has provided healthcare services to 3.2 million people in Uganda with an emphasis on women of reproductive age and children under five. Currently, BRAC manages a robust network of more than 4,000 CHWs in 72 of 125 districts across Uganda.

In 2015, BRAC began working with Living Goods and Medic Mobile to build a custom digital health platform for its CHWs. The platform features patient profiles, task management support, point-of-care decision support, forms-based data collection, and analytics for data-driven performance management. BRAC supervising staff use the collected data to monitor and supervise CHWs more efficiently and have developed a cloud-based IT system to digitize all programmatic operations, administrative tasks, and supply chain management. The app was built using the open source Community Health Toolkit, a global public good being adopted by a growing number of governments and NGOs.

 

Notes to the editor

About Little Sun

Little Sun delivers affordable and renewable energy to those without access to power while mobilizing climate action globally. Founded in 2012 by contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun integrates the world of art and design with pragmatic clean energy solutions. The non-profit brings light to the most vulnerable communities worldwide who are off the grid, both in Sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide, focusing on school children, refugees and people affected by natural disaster. Over the past five years, Little Sun has become the light of choice in the humanitarian sector and is actively engaged in supporting Digital Health programs with access to energy. In addition, Little Sun runs various social development projects, livelihoods and entrepreneur programs, educational programs, health system-strengthening programs and productive use of renewable energy projects (PURE).  Learn more at www.littlesun.com.

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

Little Sun

Rabea Koss & Romane Guégan
[email protected]
+49 30200039141

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

A quarter of Bangladesh is flooded. Millions have lost everything.

The country’s latest calamity illustrates a striking inequity of our time: The people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences.

By Somini Sengupta and Julfikar Ali Manik

 

Below is en excerpt of a piece originally published in The New York Times. Click here to view the full piece.

Torrential rains have submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh, washing away the few things that count as assets for some of the world’s poorest people — their goats and chickens, houses of mud and tin, sacks of rice stored for the lean season.

It is the latest calamity to strike the delta nation of 165 million people. Only two months ago, a cyclone pummeled the country’s southwest. Along the coast, a rising sea has swallowed entire villages. And while it’s too soon to ascertain what role climate change has played in these latest floods, Bangladesh is already witnessing a pattern of more severe and more frequent river flooding than in the past along the mighty Brahmaputra River, scientists say, and that is projected to worsen in the years ahead as climate change intensifies the rains.

“The suffering will go up,” said Sajedul Hasan, the humanitarian director of BRAC, an international development organization based in Bangladesh that is distributing food, cash and liquid soap to displaced people.

BRAC addresses devastation from Cyclone Amphan amid COVID-19 in Bangladesh

Response and recovery efforts supported by $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

BRAC responds to Cyclone Amphan

DHAKA, BANGLADESH — In the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan, the super cyclonic storm that devastated coastal communities in Bangladesh in late May, BRAC has been carrying out response and recovery efforts, made more complex by the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 200,000 homes reportedly destroyed or damaged, families sought refuge in neighboring homes and shelters, increasing the chance of contracting COVID-19 in the absence of social distancing.

BRAC has quickly started to provide multi-purpose conditional cash support (repairing of houses and latrines, and installation of tippy taps) to 4,600 cyclone-affected households to enable families to return to their own homes in 10 sub-districts in the districts of Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat. The cash assistance of approximately $60 per household is being provided by mobile money transfers in two installments. Training is also being provided to residents to install hand washing stations through demonstration efforts, maintaining social distance, so they can wash their hands safely and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Without access to clean water, it is difficult to maintain basic hygiene practices to prevent contraction of COVID-19 and diarrhea. Awareness messages on basic hygiene practices and COVID-19 infection prevention and control are being disseminated by BRAC staff, who are trained on COVID-19 prevention practices.

BRAC’s emergency response is supported by a $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant funded relief and recovery efforts to people suffering the impact of Amphan in Bangladesh.

BRAC’s disaster response efforts in Bangladesh have benefited from funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation several times in the last 13 years, starting with Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Most recently, the foundation provided a grant of $300,000 last year for flood relief.

“BRAC has always looked to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a key partner in our effort to provide life-saving services to the most vulnerable people, especially during humanitarian crises,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC. “This support was no exception. It allowed us to mobilize resources quickly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide much-needed cash support to the families most affected by Cyclone Amphan so they can get back on their feet.”

 

Notes to the editor

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

Let there be light: Bringing light and opportunity to rural Tanzania

This Earth Day, we focus on the impact projects like WE SOLVE have had on both the planet and people living in poverty.

A woman with a solar light in Tanzania
BY CHRIS LYNE

 

In this age of lockdowns and social distancing, it is easy to focus on the terrible impact COVID-19 is having on people. Development organizations and practitioners the world over are grappling with the challenge of creating opportunities and providing services for vulnerable communities without being able to leave their own home, let alone conduct field visits. However, in spite of this, it is vital that we focus on the progress we have made pre-COVID-19 and will continue to make in the future.

Today is Earth Day, an international celebration created to drive transformative change for people and the planet. A unique project in rural Tanzania has been doing just that.

That project is WE SOLVE, which stands for Women Entrepreneurship through the Solar Value chain for Economic development in Tanzania. WE SOLVE has been tackling the twin problems of limited employment and economic opportunities for women in rural Tanzania as well as limited access to clean energy.

It involves a unique global partnership between BRAC, Solar Sister, a nonprofit that trains and supports women to deliver clean energy to rural African communities, and Signify, a global company offering high quality, reliable, and safe lighting products.

The project has a simple yet effective methodology: Solar Sister recruits women entrepreneurs to sell clean energy products to their own and neighboring communities. Signify is, among other providers, ensuring that Solar Sister entrepreneurs have high-quality, energy-efficient, reliable, and safe lighting to sell. They then use BRAC’s extensive microfinance network of over 200,000 clients as a customer base to sell the solar products. BRAC also supports clients with access to credit via a solar loan product to make the purchase more affordable if they do not have available cash.

The project, which started in 2018, has been funded for 4 years by Danida, Denmark’s development cooperation, and the Signify Foundation. The pilot phase of the project targeted the Arusha region, which is home to Tanzania’s nomadic Maasai and other communities. Many people here are ‘off grid’ and face life without light as soon as the sun sets, meaning that children cannot play or study and families are often dependent on fuel-powered resources to do their daily chores.

At its halfway point, the project has achieved remarkable success. BRAC recently conducted an annual survey report to explore its impact on the incomes and life chances of households in rural Arusha, comparing the baseline survey at the start of 2019 with data collected at the end of the year. The results are extremely encouraging.

Households spent on average 68% less on their energy per year because they used renewable solar lighting products instead of kerosene lamps, which are both expensive to run ($140 per year on average) and have damaging health impacts. The number of households reporting health issues due to the kerosene lamps more than halved with only 16% reporting relevant health problems.

The use of solar lights also had other benefits, with 64% of parents reporting improvements in children’s academic performance, mostly due to solar lights making light available for longer so children could complete their homework at night.

While gathering data for the annual survey, we spoke in detail to a number of clients to learn more about their stories. Elizabeth was one such person. She is a banana trader from Tengeru, a small market-town located in the foothills of Mount Meru. She took out a loan to purchase a solar lamp from a Solar Sister entrepreneur in early 2019.

“Since my family started living in this house in 1998, we had never had electricity. We had been using various types of kerosene lamps to take care of our lighting needs. I am a widow with four children; two are grown up, and two are still in school. The solar light has been very useful to my children, who are still going to school. Before, they used a kerosene lamp for studying at night.

“My son was recently blessed with a baby. Since we still did not have electricity in our home, I gifted my daughter-in-law the light to help with the baby, especially at night. My whole family has really benefited from this light. Even now, although we have managed to get electricity, the light is still very useful to use as a torch outside, or when the power goes out, and also in our bathroom outside that has no light.”

Elizabeth has seen the many advantages of access to affordable clean energy: the women entrepreneurs selling the products are earning an income, and the planet is benefitting from an increase in the use of renewable energy products.

On this day of action for mother Earth, it’s more vital than ever that we celebrate our success and look forward to more progress for communities like Tengeru in the future.

 

Chris Lyne is Advocacy and Communications Manager at BRAC UK.

A farmer’s journey to save his family from hunger

Before the second civil war erupted in Liberia, Roland had a thriving farm. But over years of conflict, he lost everything. Today, Roland is charting a pathway to a better life for his family.

By Sarah Allen

 

Before the Second Liberian Civil War erupted, Roland and his family lived happily in Upper Buchanan, Liberia. A proud owner of more than two acres of land, Roland had a thriving chicken farm and variety of crops that helped feed his family and generate an income to support his wife and children.

But then war broke out. Soldiers raided his farm. They stole his chickens – his livelihood. Eventually, he was forced to abandon the farm and flee to town for his family’s safety.

After the war, Roland struggled to earn a living in town. He moved back to his land in Upper Buchanan with his wife, where he could farm. So that his children could stay in school, he made the difficult decision to leave them in the care of extended family.

Read more: Discover other stories from BRAC farmers in Liberia.

Leaving his family was hard, but without his farm, he could not provide for them. He knew it was the right thing to do. But when his family’s safety was again jeopardized, Roland knew he had to return to town — even if it meant sacrificing his farm and his livelihood.

In town, he did not have a job and struggled to earn a living. When a neighbor told Roland about BRAC earlier this year, he decided to attend a three-day training on chicken-rearing.

“I love raising chickens and wanted to start again,” Roland told us.

Roland's chickens

Chicken feed from BRAC's feed mill in Liberia

Roland’s family is one of 15,000 in Liberia that BRAC equips with the training and resources to improve their food security and boost their incomes. The program supports local farmers through training in innovative farming techniques like climate-smart agriculture, connecting farmers with quality farming inputs, and educating families and communities on nutrition and home gardening.

Read more: Learn about BRAC’s agriculture programs.

Although BRAC has equipped Roland and many others with tools and skills needed to farm, there are many challenges. Roland told us that the most difficult challenge is feeding his growing chickens. Local chicken feed is expensive, and the chickens eat it quickly. Through his training, Roland learned to make his own chicken feed by mixing ingredients like ground nuts and ground fish bones.

Roland and his granddaughter

Roland’s goal is to invest in his business selling roosters and eggs and expand his farm, but his number one priority is to save money so that his children can continue their education. He knows education is a pathway to a better life for his children and baby granddaughter.

“I want them to have everything they dream. With an education, life would not be hard for them.”

Roland told us that he still dreams of his old farm. One day, he hopes to move back to the countryside, where there is more space to expand his chicken farm and room to grow vegetables and crops as he once did. Equipped with new skills and tools, he is already making progress towards achieving that dream.

 

Sarah Allen is Communications Officer at BRAC USA.