Power to the people: How light after dark is dimming poverty

(4 Mar 2019) Often taken for granted, access to energy is more than about brightening a dark room after sunset—it is a means to a more equitable future. How can energy be delivered to off-grid communities?

Being able to keep busy in the evenings or receive medical treatment at night are among the things that people who live in areas with ready energy access never think twice about—but they pose a huge challenge to those who live off the grid, where the modern convenience of lighting and electricity are out of reach.

The latter is true for people such as San San Myint, a midwife from Myanmar, who had to care for pregnant women in the two villages where she works under the glow of kerosene lamps once the sun had set.

But the situation changed in 2013 when residents received solar lanterns under a programme organised by Japanese electronics company Panasonic and its local partner, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Save the Children Japan.

“There were many difficulties in providing healthcare at night,” said Myint in a social impact survey report for Panasonic’s 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project. “Now solar lanterns help us a lot in our daily activities. We can also use them for emergency situations, as [we live in] a high-risk area for natural disasters.”

For populations for whom electricity and lighting at night is a distant reality, kerosene lamps are the next best way for them to continue activities at night. However, these lamps provide little illumination and strain the eyes, while purchasing kerosene fuel takes up money that could be otherwise used in better ways, such as food or education for families. Smoke produced from burning the fuel is also harmful to respiratory systems.

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, 4 Mar 2019: Power to the people: How light after dark is dimming poverty