ACLE (www.ACLENet.org) is a pan-African network dedicated to the reduction of deaths, injuries and property damage from lightning. Areas in sub-Saharan Africa experience some of the highest lightning densities in the world and 90% of the housing is inadequate to protect families. Most of the people killed by lightning are villagers in rural areas working in open fields and children in unprotected schools. Although reliable statistics are not available at present in most African countries, recently reported information from a few countries suggests that the African continent have more lightning incidents per country and per population than most other parts of the world. Apart from human injuries and deaths, the innumerable deaths of animals caused by lightning every year can heavily impact individual families where wealth is often still measured in cattle and goats.
Electrical power grids and aviation, essential to the economic growth of the African continent, are especially vulnerable to lightning damage. In addition to equipment damage, there is often significant downtime due to lack of replacement equipment or spare parts for repair. Although the nearly universal availability of cell phones and other electronic devices in Africa will increase damage to some extent, it also provides a golden opportunity to use mobile networks for warning and injury prevention education.
ACLE has many parts to its work: • DATA COLLECTION – In order to work with governments, design education programs, and measure success for any intervention, data on the number of injuries as well as the monetary cost of property damage must be collected and maintained. • EDUCATION – There are many ‘clients' that ACLE serves in its educational efforts: o Government – working with government officials and other agencies to decrease the injuries and damage that lightning causes and to adopt accepted international lightning protection standards. o The Public – designing, presenting and sharing lightning safety messages with the public to decrease the numbers of injuries and deaths o Media – working with the media to disseminate lightning safety messages o Students – providing support for students who choose to become leaders in the fields of lightning protection, lightning science, meteorology and other fields which can support ACLE's overall mission. • INNOVATION – ACLE intends to foster and investigate new ideas and technologies to decrease injuries and damage based on scientific principles. An estimated 5000 fishermen die on Lake Victoria every year from storms for which lightning can be used as a proxy (http://aclenet.org/lightning-detection-lake-victoria/). • COLLABORATION – ACLE will partner with individuals, groups, governments or organizations that have similar interests and expertise, avoiding any conflict of interests or limitations to collaborations that can be beneficial to ACLE's mission. • LIGHTNING PROTECTION - Starting in the schools which tend to be the most substantial building in many villages but where over half the reported injuries (http://aclenet.org/lightning-kills-save-a-life-in-africa/).