I will never forget my long journey out to a remote village a few years ago to meet with a small group of midwives serving rural women in Ethiopia. The trip was particularly memorable because I was around 5 months pregnant with my second son and as we got closer to the village the road began to disappear and I became increasingly uncomfortable bouncing around our truck. My little guy apparently enjoyed the ride while in utero since I felt his first kicks right after our trip.
We visited two young midwives, Yingesu and Mantegbosh, who were working at the Agita Health Center, a tiny clinic serving a population of 51,000 people. Remarkably in their first year, the girls had made over 100 deliveries and provided approximately 1,000 women with prenatal care, which increased access to maternal care in the region by over 90%. Yingesu shared with us how she had recently delivered triplets successfully by candlelight due to a loss of electricity. She enthusiastically said, “my hope for the future is to help my community, and I am proud of my job…I feel fantastic because I can save the lives of women and children!” Yet she is faced with the challenge of delivering babies by candlelight because basic infrastructure like electricity is unreliable.
We recently had an irritatingly outage of Internet access in our house and the idea of unreliable electricity and lack of access to good roads is honestly far from my mind. But for so many, these are daily actualities that effect life giving work such as maternal care. In fact, as of 2010, 68% of people in sub-Sahara Africa live without access to electricity. A lack of power impacts millions of people by hindering quality health care, ability to run businesses, hinders education and encourages usage of kerosene and open fires for cooking, heating and lighting that produce toxic fumes and an increase in accidents inside the home. According to WHO, “more than 50% of premature deaths among children under age 5 are due to pneumonia caused by ‘soot’ inhaled from household air pollution.”
Because of these realities, I am thrilled when there are opportunities before our government, which would send taxpayer dollars to projects that make broad and lasting impacts. Yesterday, the Electrify Africa Act was passed in the House and will soon be introduced in the Senate. As summarized by the One Campaign, “the bill seeks to prioritize and coordinate U.S. government resources to achieve three goals in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020:
- Promote first-time access to electricity for at least 50 million people, particularly the poor.
- Encourage the installation of at least an additional 20,000 megawatts of electrical power.
- Promote efficient institutional platforms that provide electrical service to rural and underserved areas.”
With all the many challenges facing health care, education, and economic growth in the developing world the significance of adequate infrastructure like electricity cannot be understated. Please write your Representative in Congress – especially your Senator – to vote for the Electrify Africa Act! In light of Mother’s Day weekend, send a message to girls like Yingesu that we in America want to make backbone investments in her country to enable her to provide quality maternal care to the women and children in her village.
To engage Congress through the One Campaign on Electrify Africa Act click HERE