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Updated On: Tuesday, April 25 2017
Development Issues

Non-profit Solar Company Wins $1 Million UN Grant

Photo: WeCareSolar.org

Content by: South-South News

14 September 2015, New York, USA | Brendan Pastor - The non-profit energy company We Care Solar has won a $1 million grant from the United Nations during a special ceremony honoring innovations in clean energy uses and application held at the United Nations headquarters today.

The Berkely, California based organization, established in 2008, produces portable, briefcase-sized solar panel units that are used to power medical devices in areas of the world that don't have sustainable access to electricity. The devices have been targeted toward improving maternal and child health by allowing the provision of electricity to off-grid clinics.

"The United Nations is shining a light on an area that has all too often been overlooked — the lack of reliable electicity in health facilities," Dr. Laura Stachel, co-founder of We Care Solar, said after receiving the award.

"I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of health workers who have seen the miracle of light and power in saving lives, and we have much more work to do. This award is the beginning of a brighter future for women everywhere. No woman should die giving life," Stachel said.

The award is the first to be presented by the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and is financially supported by the China Energy Fund Committee.

It comes just weeks ahead of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals — a new set of global objectives aimed at improving livelihoods while ensuring environmental sustainability. Energy has been identified by the international community as an important driver of development, and providing sustainable access to it is now enshrined in one of the goals.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made access to energy a priority of his tenure. In 2011, he launched the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), which aims to guarantee universal access to clean energy by 2030.

Today's award underscores the world body's desire to see a convergence between energy production and social development.

"Energy underpins our efforts to achieve development objectives," Mr. Ban said in his statement. "From reducing extreme poverty to enhancing food security, from powering essential health services to providing electricity for education."

According to the UN, 1 in 5 people globally lack access to electricity, while billions continue to face irregular access to power in their day-to-day lives. This has resulted in significant obstacles to supporting social and economic development. But the specific concerns of power to medical devices that support women and children's health has not necessarily been as widely visible on the global stage.

We Care Solar has pioneered the use of portable solar panels, called Solar Suitcases, for use in providing electricity to off-grid clinics that cater to these areas. The organization says there are over 300,000 such facilities without access to power around the world. 

After receiving the award, Stachel said she will continue to work until all maternal healthcare facilities are given access to sustainable energy.

"There can no longer be silos between global health goals and sustainable energy goals," Stachel said.

"The time has come to collectively work together to give every health care worker the power they need to save lives."

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