Every Earth Day, I’m reminded of the proverb, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
To build a better world for future generations, we have to protect the environment. At the same time, a better world requires us to do something about the billions of people who don’t have reliable access to electricity.
Electricity is especially important for health care facilities – it provides light, powers medical equipment, and makes it possible to store vaccines and sterilize equipment. Yet many hospitals and clinics around the world don’t get the power they need to give patients the care they deserve. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that in 11 sub-Saharan African countries reviewed, on average 26 percent of health care facilities had no electricity, rising to 58 percent in some countries.
This situation comes with enormous risks for mothers in childbirth and their babies.
The lack of reliable electricity in many health care facilities means women often have to deliver their babies in the dark, without access to many vital and sometimes life-saving medical services. In 2010, an estimated 287,000 women died of complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
While this challenge is great, so is the opportunity to harness sustainable energy to improve health care.
Modern sustainable energy solutions like solar lamps, micro-grids, and many other services can help provide the clean electricity that is needed to make health care safer and the environment cleaner.
Last Friday, as part of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the UN Foundation, along with UN Women and WHO, announced a new effort to strengthen women’s health by expanding access to modern, sustainable energy services – focusing on bringing electricity to clinics and clinicians alike.
This effort will bring together partners from the energy and health sectors, government, business, and civil society. By leveraging the strengths and resources of these partners, we can get clean energy to the health facilities where it’s needed.
This effort is a “win-win” – it’s good for the environment and for the health of women.