The poor health situation is largely responsible for the very low Human Development Index (HDI) in Burkina Faso. Diseases such as AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis force the average life expectancy right down, to as low as 44 years. For every one doctor there are 25,000 people in Burkina Faso. The ratio in Germany is much lower, at only 1 to 300 .
Some people have to walk a whole day to access healthcare in Burkina Faso. Their destination is most likely to be a CSPS — a health centre comprising a pharmacie (pharmacy), a dispensaire (emergency referral clinic for injuries and diseases) and a maternité (maternity ward). As the majority of the population live in rural areas, these health clinics are the primary healthcare providers in the country. Compared to the huts in the Sahel, the CSPSs found in somewhat bigger settlements have considerably better hygiene standards and better first aid treatment. Heavily pregnant women sometimes make journeys of up to 30 kilometres to get to these healths centres to deliver their baby, as risks such as neonatal and maternal mortality are much lower there.
Nonetheless the situation is dismal. The majority of healthcare facilities are found outside urban settlements and so have no electricity at their disposal. Nonetheless wounds have to be treated and blood transfusions still given after the sun has set. With the majority of births delivered after dark, the most important piece of equipment for all midwives is actually their torch.
SEWA together with its partners equip healthcare facilities in Burkina Faso with solar power systems that give light to maternité and dispensaire facilities. Patients can be treated and mothers can give birth in these newly-lit establishments after the onset of darkness. The staff there no longer have to work under the light of weak torches or even under the weak light of harmful Kerosene lamps. Staff can concentrate wholly on treating the patients in front of them.
Since 2000 SEWA has worked to install solar power systems in schools in rural Burkina Faso to help improve education. The relevant experience that SEWA has built up after supplying over 50 schools with solar power systems is now being transferred to provide solar light to healthcare facilities in Burkina Faso. At the start of 2008 the CSPS in Salogo was in fact the first healthcare facility in Burkina Faso to benefit from the new programme. In the same year the CSPS in Youba was also electrified. To date SEWA has provided electrical light to seven health facilities.