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‘Imagine Facing COVID in the Dark’: SolarAid Raises Rural Electrification Funds for Zambia [Donor Appeal]

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  • Apr 17, 2020
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SolarAid solar lights Zambia

Patrick Bentley/SolarAid via flickr

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins spreading across the African continent, with Malawi and Zambia each recently recording their first death, UK-based SolarAid has set out to raise £162,000 to support fast dissemination of local health advice, light and basic power for rural clinics, and other measures to adapt and respond to immediate needs in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

“Imagine facing this pandemic in the dark,” writes SolarAid founder and UK social entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett. “As I picture the emerging miseries, Africa leaps to the front of my mind. Anybody who has been there knows how hard it will be for any kind of containment of the virus. Anyone who has sat in the dark with an African family knows just a little of the horrors that come in the pitch blackness, and the dangers that come when candles or kerosene are used to alleviate it. And now comes a pandemic.”

Before COVID-19, SolarAid’s SunnyMoney campaign was working to get high-quality solar lighting into schools in the two countries, then set up local agents and shops to build local demand for off-grid lighting. Now, Leggett writes, the “SunnyMoney teams are grounded, unable to get out into the field to sell the money- and health-saving solar lights that their countrymen so badly need. Instead, in Zambia, they are working with the Ministry of Health to deploy donated lights in health clinics. Most of these have either no light at night, or just candles. It is incredible to think, in these days of plenty, for so many of us. But it is true.”

On its fundraising page, SolarAid says local teams are already working through their networks of customers, agents, and head teachers to help the Zambian health ministry deliver an essential prevention message. “In Malawi, we are part of the government’s planning to form a much-needed strategy.”

After that, beyond the 3,750 solar lights the organization is already distributing to health clinics in Zambia, it’s urging supporters to chip in: £20 to buy a solar light, £50 for a light that “also charges mobile phones so vital health information can be communicated”, £150 for a system that charges phones and lights a three-room clinic.

On his blog, Leggett urges readers to “please stay healthy and sane, empathetic and active, if not here then somewhere else in the war on the virus. We only beat this thing by working together. And when we have beaten it, let’s take that lesson and apply it to other problems of humankind, while there is still time, and before other horrors ambush us.”

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