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Heroes

A bright yellow suitcase is saving moms and babies around the world.

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The CW

It's common to do certain things in the dark: get your snooze on, watch a movie, maybe even deliver a baby.

Deliver a ... baby? In the dark? It happens.

It's a scenario that's almost hard to fathom, considering many of us can barely find a light switch in the dark without stubbing a toe on every piece of furniture. But as U.S.-based OB/GYN Dr. Laura Stachel discovered on a research trip in 2008, babies around the world too often are being delivered in near darkness — until she found a unique way to fix it.


Check out her story in this video and then scroll down to read the whole story!

In many countries, delivering a baby in darkness isn't what the doctor ordered — but it's what the doctor got.

Take rural Nigeria, for example, where the electricity can be extremely unreliable.

When Laura went there on her research trip, she was shocked at what she saw: nurses delivering babies at night, using lanterns and flashlights to see. Surgeons working in near darkness, and patients needing life-saving procedures but getting turned away because of the dark conditions.

As you can imagine, the results were often tragic.

A midwife in Tanzania holds a cellphone in her mouth to enable her to see and care for a woman. All photos from We Care Solar/Facebook, used with permission.

On a list of reasons why maternal mortality is still so high in 2016, "light" isn't usually one that would come to mind. But 300,000 women are dying during or right after pregnancy or childbirth every year, and access to light is a contributing factor.

Because as you know, babies don't wait until conditions are ideal to make their world appearances. Countries with unreliable electricity can only adapt as best as they can.

When Laura realized that access to light was such an issue, it gave her an idea that's paying off for a whole generation.

She and her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator in Berkley, California, developed an off-grid solar electric system and gave it to the Nigerian hospital. It provided reliable lighting, easier communication, and allowed for a blood bank refrigerator through its power source.

And guess what? Maternal mortality there decreased significantly. That's not a coincidence.

Back then, Hal Aronson and Laura Stachel were just getting started.

Knowing that portability and ease of use was going to be key for their success, they created a compact version of their solar electric system and dubbed it the "solar suitcase."

It's a suitcase, people! That provides light. And a power source. And saves the lives of moms and babies.

Solar suitcases in Tanzania are now replacing candlelight and oil wick lanterns.

What more could you want? Besides more of them ... everywhere. (Don't worry, they're working on that!)

More than 1,500 solar suitcases have served moms, babies, and health care workers in more than 27 countries since 2009. In the next five years, they hope to light up 20,000 health clinics.

What a difference some light makes. Photo taken after the Nepal earthquake, using a solar suitcase.

It's a seemingly simple solution with a huge impact. The suitcases currently cost around $1,645 each and have been funded by individuals, UN agencies, and foundations; although donations are obviously welcomed. The suitcases are provided at no cost to the clinics in need.

Some of our world's biggest problems can feel too complex and difficult to fix. Laura and the We Care Solar team are showing why that's not always the case.

Her simple fix is impacting maternal mortality rates around the world in the best way possible, and there is much more good to come.

She's a hero, shining bright.

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