I have visited enough traditional family huts and homes in rural Africa to know that light and power are precious commodities. When the last bit of sun streams through the windows and doors in the evenings, the only recourse for light again is when the sun shines brightly in the morning. That is a long time to read, write, cook, and get ready for the next day by mere firelight. When not fixed on an electrical grid (which aren’t very reliable themselves), the only real, viable opportunity for light and energy is through solar power.
A newly released short film by BioLite Run Home shows how powerful their products are to light households in the absence of electricity. In fact, BioLite is on a mission to “bring energy everywhere”. In the film, BioLite features professional Kenyan marathon runner and mother Jane Kibii. Through her race earnings, Kibii has earned enough money to purchase a family home. Unfortunately, the home she built for her parents is far from the electrical grid.
The Kenyan Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board has stopped the NGO Marie Stopes International from performing abortions in Kenya. Marie Stopes is a global organisation that provides contraception and safe abortion to women in urban and rural communities. Abortion is illegal in Kenya, unless a trained medical professional judges that there’s a need for emergency treatment, or that a woman’s life or health is in danger.
The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Michael Mutua about the Marie Stopes ban and its implications.
How did the ban come about?
According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, they banned abortion services provided by Marie Stopes following complaints from the general public. The public claimed the organisation was running pro-choice media campaigns. These adverts specifically sought to provide women with a solution when faced with crisis pregnancies.
The adverts were also criticised by the Kenya Film Classification Board, which ordered Marie Stopes to pull them down for allegedly promoting abortion.
About 21 pregnant women die every day in Kenya due to complications from childbirth. That’s equivalent to two 10-seater commuter micro minibuses, known as matatus, crashing every day with the loss of all the passengers on board.
Pregnant women in Kenya die because they either do not receive appropriate care during pregnancy or are unable to deliver with the help of skilled health attendants.
Mother’s milk has an enormous impact on child survival. While in Kenya it has improved over the past decade, the number of children who die before five years remains significant. The rate has decreased from 115 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 52 in 2014.
Neighbors Rwanda (2008), Tanzania (2012) and Uganda (2011) have recorded 50, 66 and 65 deaths per 1,000 live births for children below five years, respectively.
The main causes of childhood deaths are infections, preterm births and lack of sufficient oxygen, or asphyxia.
Breastfeeding infants on breast milk alone until they are six months old has been shown to reduce child mortality. When mothers can’t provide their own milk, the next best alternative is donor milk from other women. Access to “human milk banks” gives vulnerable infants, without access to their mother’s own milk, a healthy start to life.
The milk bank concept was initiated in Vienna in 1909 and was preceded by a century old practice of wet nursing – a mother breastfeeding another mother’s child.
Since then, over 500 human milk banks have been established in more than 37 countries globally in developed and developing countries. The pioneer countries include Brazil, South Africa, India, Canada, Japan and France.
As of 2014 only 23% of Kenyans have access to electricity according to the World Bank. That number has remained steady since 2005. Now, a reported two million Kenyans will gain access to renewable energy through portable home solar kits donated by renewable energy company, US-based SkyPower. The home kits will include LED bulbs, a fan, USB charging capabilities and a radio that will be powered and recharged by the sun.