Reached the 100,000: Solar Lanterns Donated to 131 Organizations in 30 Countries over Five Years
Panasonic donated solar lanterns to Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Mauritania through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and to Liberia through the Village Improvement Project. Below, we introduce users' voices on how solar lanterns are improving the lives of people living in areas without electricity.
Sierra Leone is one of the world's poorest countries and has an electrification rate of only 13.1%. In an effort to improve the harsh conditions even a little, we consulted with Mr. Kunikazu Akao of the IOM Sierra Leone office and decided to distribute the lanterns to two areas in the country.
Our first area was a camp for internally displaced people in the capital city of Freetown. Despite the relatively high electrification rate in the capital, the area has many slopes and limited flat land, combined with a surging population, which has resulted in many people living on steep slopes or along rivers. The area also has some of the world's heaviest rainfall, which triggers numerous landslides and flooding. In recent years, these disasters have forced many from their homes into off-grid displacement camps.
In the donation this time, we distributed solar lanterns to a camp in a region called Mile 6. Many residents attended the donation ceremony and we were welcomed with a joyful dance by the women and children.
The second place for donations was a rural health center. Sierra Leone has the world's highest maternal mortality rate (1,360 per 100,000), 1.5 times the second-ranked Central African Republic (882 per 100,000.) One of the biggest reasons for these statistics is the shortage of facilities where mothers can give birth safely. Many of rural facilities do not have the lighting necessary for nighttime deliveries. The donated solar lanterns will be used for nighttime deliveries, attending to emergency patients, and making medical rounds in villages.
Mr. Akao has sent us a comment: "I'd been told time and again that people needed light so I am extremely happy that we were able to donate the Panasonic solar lanterns in this way."
In Rwanda, the solar lanterns were distributed to a mountainous region that is vulnerable to landslides and other natural disasters and where access to electricity is limited. In addition to being used in health centers that still have no electricity after last year's disasters, the solar lanterns are being used as backup lighting in school classrooms and dormitories during power blackouts.
In Mauritania, we delivered solar lanterns to poor households in off-grid villages. These homes have hardly any cash income, which of course means that they don't have money for buying flashlight batteries or even candles at times. Having light enables the children to study at night and for women to spend the night without fear of danger.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an electrification rate that is the lowest of the four countries in this report, at a meager 9.1%. Recipient organization Village Improvement Project provides solar lanterns and solar cookers to rural villagers and explains them how to use the products as a part of their support in improving their lives.
The donated solar lanterns were distributed to regional households and we've received locals' messages back, such as, "I can now work late into the night," and "I'm so happy that we can now use a safe and bright solar lantern. I can do my homework with confidence." In other areas, schoolteachers use the solar lanterns at night when preparing for the next day's classes or grading tests, and also by village nurses and midwives during evening checkups. Furthermore, the solar lanterns were distributed to centers that support orphans who have lost their parents to the Ebola virus disease.
Just like what we've seen in the four recent recipient countries, many people in Africa live difficult lives without access to electricity. Going forward, we will continue working with UN organizations and NGOs to continue providing support to areas in need.