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The Impact of Solar Lights in a Disaster

February 28, 2019
Disaster Strikes
On the morning of April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. A busy day in the city of Kathmandu turned into chaotic scramble as building after building collapsed onto the ground threatening to trap anyone in its path. The streets that had been full of people moments before the earthquake were now full of ruble. Miles away, the serenity of the countryside - full of lush greenery, low hanging clouds and back dropped by the Himalayan mountains - would disappear as the earthquake created avalanches and mudslides that ripped through entire communities. 

Earthquake damage in the village of Bolgaon
​​​​​​​(photo by Lucy Beck, CARE)
In total, nearly 9,000 people were killed in this event, and more than 22,000 were injured. Just 17 days later, while efforts for disaster relief were in full throttle, Nepal was again hit by a 7.3 aftershock, this time killing more than 200 people and injuring 2,500. Hundreds of thousands of additional homes were lost with the worst impacts occurring in rural areas. Aid in the upcoming months to rural villages would be almost impossible as monsoon seasonal rains created landslides making mountainous regions inaccessible.  

​​​​​​​Disaster Response
In response to these escalating disasters, the non-profit organization “Mountain Heart Nepal” was formed, with a primary mission to improve health service delivery in rural Nepal. This organization constructs health clinics in remote areas and sponsors medical and surgical treatment. It also provides education for underprivileged children living in rural areas.

In a joint effort with the non-profit Direct Relief (a humanitarian aid organization with a mission to improve the lives of people affected by poverty or emergency) and Mountain Heart Nepal, Unite to Light donated solar lights to villages without any access to electricity that had been affected by the disasters in Nepal. One of these villages was Ratamatea-3, in the Sinduli District. Mountain Heart followed a day in the life of a young child from this village to highlight the struggles of living without reliable sources of electricity.

“Saroj, a diligent boy of eight from this very village, has been using kerosene lamps to do his homework. Due to the lack of access to electricity in both his house and his school, Saroj and his friends frequently rush to their homes at the end of the school day in order to study or complete their assignments before dark. Such is the condition of the students and people there. The lack of electricity has not only kept individuals from accessing their basic needs but has come to be a major hindrance in the growth and development of the people and the village itself. Furthermore, the effects of indoor air pollution (from kerosene and wood-burning stoves) causing acute respiratory infections remain a major threat to the poor health-related quality of life.”

Even before the earthquakes, life in remote villages in Nepal was a challenge. The shipment of 120 solar lights to the students at Tamlingbhanjyang Secondary School represents opportunity, hope and excitement.  A simple solar light can transform the possibilities of what the future holds for these children.  
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Portable Solar Lights for Disaster-Affected Communities
Powerful, portable, solar powered lights allow individuals to have a reliable source of light whenever and wherever. They are essential for staying safe in an affected area and for safeguarding the lives of those that have been affected. In the short-term, solar powered portable lights are essential tools for avoiding dangerous areas, for safe transportation and for obtaining essentials like food, medicine, clothes and personal care products. Having lights also allows individuals to communicate and to work together as a unit with greater ease, which is vital in rescue missions.

In the long-term, these solar powered lights can shape a community. After an affected area has recovered, community members, families and children can use these lights in their own pursuits. A child may use the light to finish their homework after dark. Parents will have light to care for children and sick family members. Teachers, medics and midwives with light can offer more of their time with these valuable tools.

Studies have shown that a greater use of electricity (light) tends to suggest a higher Human Development Index (HDI), which consists of educational attainment (mean years of education/expected education), standard of living ($GDP/capita), and longevity (life expectancy) (International Energy Agency, UN Development Program). The increase in HDI as a result of electricity use is most notable in impoverished areas. The contributions made by Unite to Light and partnering organizations go beyond temporary disaster relief, they take root in human well-being and happiness.
Unite to Light’s Mission with Direct Relief
Everything can be lost in an instant when a natural disaster takes place. Every year, natural disasters kill approximately 90,000 individuals and affect almost 160 million people worldwide. Trying times test the limit of the human condition, but we at Unite to Light seek to be the helping hand that restores a foundation of stability. 

​​​​​​​The solar powered lights we provide are as much a tool for sight, as they are a tool for safety in times of disaster and a stepping stone for progress in the long-term. Our mission is to manufacture and distribute efficient, durable, low-cost solar lamps and chargers to people living without access to electricity in order to improve education, health and quality of life. To learn more about our work with Direct Relief in times of disaster use the button below:
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Unite to Light is a not-for-profit 501(c)3. All donations are tax deductible.
EIN: 27-2942180 
Address: Unite to Light, 1117 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 617-0590
Email: admin@unite-to-light.org

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