The Crib A’Glow phototherapy unit is a solar-powered, foldable and low-cost phototherapy unit that cures neonatal jaundice in new born babies with no after-effects such as skin burns, rashes and dehydration on the baby, thanks to LED technology.
Making Phototherapy Treatment Affordable & Accessible for Babies
Globally, an estimated 6 million jaundiced babies do not receive phototherapy treatment because they lack access to effective phototherapy units. The dire consequences of untreated jaundice are cerebral palsy, hearing loss, mental retardation and even death. Nigerian tech startup Tiny Hearts Technology’s solution is the “Crib A’glow” unit – a solar phototherapy crib for the treatment of jaundice in newborn babies. The tech firm provides these units and deploy them to community primary healthcare centres and other medical facilities in nondescript suburban and rural thriving communities to close the gap of cost, access and electricity.
VIRTUE OBORO Co-Founded Nigerian Tech Startup to Fight Baby Jaundice with Solar-Powered Cribs
In 2015, Virtue Oboro experienced every mother’s worst nightmare: at just 48 hours old, her newborn son was rushed into hospital for emergency treatment.
Her son, Tombra, was diagnosed with jaundice, a common condition affecting more than 60% of newborns worldwide. Many cases are mild and resolve on their own, but more serious cases require phototherapy, where babies are placed under blue light.
It’s a simple, effective treatment — but in some places, including Oboro’s home country of Nigeria, access to the necessary equipment isn’t always possible. Not getting treatment can lead to irreversible health problems including hearing loss, vision impairment, brain damage and cerebral palsy. In rare cases, it can lead to death.
Tombra’s case was severe, but there were no phototherapy units available and the family waited four hours while his condition deteriorated.
Eventually, he was given an emergency blood transfusion — a risky surgery that bought valuable time until a phototherapy unit became available. Oboro says she had to buy the bulb herself, and power outages meant the unit was off for several hours during Tombra’s seven-day treatment. Oboro’s experience with power outages and broken equipment isn’t uncommon in Nigeria.
Despite the many obstacles, her son, now six, made a full recovery. But Oboro says the experience was traumatising — and it inspired her to change careers.
Driven by a new mission to save babies from jaundice, she created the Crib A’Glow: a portable, affordable, solar-powered phototherapy unit, which treats jaundice using blue LED lights.
“I felt like some of the things (I experienced) could have been avoided, or the stress level could be reduced,” she told CNN. “I thought, is there something I could do to make the pain less for the babies and the mothers?”
Crib A’Glow is powered with solar energy and folds flat so it’s easy to move
One of the most effective phototherapy units currently used in Nigeria costs around $2,000, a steep sum for hospitals on a budget. But Crib A’Glow — produced in Nigeria using local materials — is able to save on added fees like import tax, and retails for $360 per unit. Additionally, because it’s portable and solar powered, the device can be used at home by parents living in remote areas with limited or inconsistent access to electricity.
Oboro and her team, including pediatricians and healthcare workers, are now developing protective eyewear for babies to use in the phototherapy units.
The Crib A’Glow innovation has received award grants including $50,000 from Johnson and Johnson’s Africa Innovation Award. Most recently, the device was selected as a finalist for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize 2022.
While the Crib A’Glow might seem like an ingenious solution, Oboro says she has faced resistance from hospitals and medical professionals in Nigeria. “It was not an easy thing to get them to test the unit, because the perception was if it was made in Nigeria, it probably would not work well,” she says.
Despite these barriers, the cribs are already being used by more than 500 hospitals across Nigeria and Ghana, treating over 300,000 babies, says Oboro, and the company is hoping to expand into other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Demand for the cribs has soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, says Oboro, as many parents wanted to avoid hospitals and look after their newborns at home. The team is working on protective eye wear, to blindfold babies safely during phototherapy.
8 WAYS TO A HEALTHIER HOME
When we think about our health, the natural tendency is to focus on good nutrition and exercise, and perhaps we spend less time focusing on how our environment can affect our wellbeing. If you want to clean up your house or apartment to make it a safer environment, check out these 8 suggestions to make your home more healthy.