Babies born in remote parts of Liberia’s Bomi county are to have a brighter start in life, thanks to a Red Cross project to provide solar-powered lighting in health centres that currently have no electricity.

Ms Sayba Tamba, Secretary General of the Liberian Red Cross Society, explained that poor facilities in many rural areas means that health workers are often forced to deliver babies by candlelight. “The state of health facilities in Bomi demands immediate intervention if we are to save lives,” she said.

So, to help health workers safely deliver babies at night, the Liberian Red Cross – with support from the Canadian Red Cross – is installing solar-powered lights at 13 clinics across the region.

Bomi, which lies in the north-west of Liberia and is one of the country’s most populous countries, suffered extensive damage to its health clinics and infrastructure during periods of conflict. Since the end of the war, the Liberian Red Cross and its partners have been running numerous programmes designed to fill the gaps in the country’s health care system, including the maternal, newborn and child health project in Bomi.

“A key component of this project is the provision of solar power to help health workers safely deliver babies at night,” said Ms Tamba. “The programme supports 13 clinics in Bomi. The installation of solar panels is on course and will be completed in a matter of days.”

This latest intervention by the Red Cross is meant to complement the efforts of the government to create an efficient health sector. The country’s ministry of health has recently provided some health centres with solar power to run their refrigeration systems, for effective storage of vaccines and medication.  The Red Cross programme, on the other hand, focuses on the provision of adequate lighting at the facilities.

Ms Tamba added: “We want to ensure that the next child born in the local clinics will be born in safe conditions. We are very grateful to our Canadian Red Cross partners for this incredible support which makes us proud to complement the efforts of the government.”

The Liberian Red Cross has been playing a leading role in the health sector in the country, most notably during the recent Ebola crisis, where Red Cross teams were on the frontline of the response from the earliest days of the outbreak.  A recent study, published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal, found that the Red Cross volunteers who organized the safe and dignified burials of people killed by Ebola in West Africa may have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.