Would dependable energy in healthcare facilities reduce maternal death rates in sub-Saharan Africa?

By Simone Betito

Through the lens of SDG-5, this visualization examines the significance of dependable energy in healthcare facilities and its role in reproductive care in sub-Saharan Africa. It also explores the correlation between maternal mortality rates and a lack of electricity in healthcare facilities in that region.

Without dependable energy in healthcare facilities, women experience a range of complications including but not limited to; giving birth in the dark without access to facilities with electricity and lifesaving devices requiring energy.

Initiatives that focus on investing in dependable energy in this area will have a direct impact on saving women's lives.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 36 women will die from Maternal Conditions.

The chart below visualizes the discrepancy between Maternal Mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and the world. 201,000 women in that region died from complications relating to giving birth in 2015.

Hover over the bars to get the true figures:

Here's the energy breakdown of healthcare facilities in 11 sub-Saharan countries

The map below looks at 11 Sub-Saharan countries (Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia) and how their health facilities are powered, either by generator only, central, solar, another supply, or no electricity at all.

In 10 out of the 11 countries examined, there is still a portion of healthcare facilities that are operating without electricity.

Use your mouse to hover over the countries below:

There seems to be a connection between a lack of energy in healthcare facilities and expecting mothers dying

This chart compares the percentage of healthcare facilities without electricity and the percentage of maternal deaths per women in childbearing years in a specific country. As the percentage of healthcare facilities without electricity peaks, so does an increase in deaths. A pattern is observable.

Hover over the chart to get the true figures that make up the correlation:

Further Information

In Liberia, under a partnership between six UN agencies working in collaboration with the Liberian Government, UN Women have installed solar lighting systems in 26 health centres and in five maternal waiting rooms in rural Liberia to improve maternal and child healthcare services.

According to a WHO study published in August 2013, 1 in 4 health facilities in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa has no access to electricity and most facilities lack a reliable supply. Facilities have trouble keeping back-up power sources such as diesel generators due to high fuel costs and unreliable fuel delivery. The study found that fewer than 30% of the generators were actually operational.

Sub-Saharan Africa has immense potential for renewable energy initiatives. Luckily, the cost of unitily-scale solar has dropped by over 90% since 2009. However, to meet the demand for energy in healthcare facilities, broader mobilization of institutions and resources are required to have a meaningful impact.

Financial investment for the electrification of health centers in sub-Saharan Africa will mean life saving vaccines and maternal care for women. In addition to the electrification of the facility itself, the UN lists a number of devices essential in reproductive healthcare requiring electricity. See a few of the devices needed below and the full list here.

Breast Pumps
Patient Monitors
Newborn Incubators
Medical Refrigeration


ADAIR-ROHANI, H., ZUKOR, K., BONJOUR, S., WILBURN, S., KUESEL, A. C., HEBERT, R. AND FLETCHER, E. R. Limited electricity access in health facilities of sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of data on electricity access, sources, and reliability Available Here

Power Technology. "Can renewables meet their potential in Africa?" (2018, September) Available Here

The Lancet. "Table: Number of public hospitals and access quotients with UI across 48 sub-Saharan African countries and islands, including Zanzibar for 2015" Available Here

UNICEF Data. "Maternal Mortality." (2017, February) Available Here

United Nations Population Fund."End Maternal Death" Available Here

UN Women."Maternal health gets a new boost in Liberia" (2017, July) Available Here

World Health Organization. "Harnessing Africa’s untapped solar energy potential for health" (2014) Available Here