UNICEF merges inspiration with technical expertise

Friday, August 24, 2012
Copenhagen: With a view to merging inspiration with technical expertise, UNICEF announced the launch of its Innovate for Children website.

The site draws attention to health and education challenges faced by children in developing countries – and the potential for innovative product design and inventive use of technology to find solutions.

“Innovation and the partnerships around innovation have always been part of UNICEF’s DNA,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division in Copenhagen. “The Innovate for Children website is premised on the idea that we can and must do more. It is one way UNICEF is reaching out to expert individuals, industry, and design and research institutions to get involved.”

“For child survival and development, innovation is critical. Children's lives are being saved thanks to new vaccines, better formulations in paediatric medicines, and more effective health technology, such as longer lasting bed nets,” said Paul Molinaro, who heads UNICEF’s innovation team.

“Newly developed, open-source mobile phone technology is allowing health workers to shorten critical waiting times for patients’ test results and reduce the risk of stock-outs of essential supplies in remote clinics," Molinaro added.

UNICEF collaborations around innovation featured on the website include:

A new design for water containers, now being field tested in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Haiti and Sudan.  

Bundling together dosages of oral rehydration salts sachets and zinc tablets so that front-line health workers and caregivers at home can easily combine these to treat diarrhoea – one of the leading killers of young children.

Development of a respiratory timer that will work well in low-technology settings and better diagnose pneumonia in young children. Pneumonia is the leading cause of preventable deaths among children.

In Zambia and Malawi, Project Mwana is saving lives of newborns by using mobile phones to communicate HIV test results more quickly to health workers. This means treatment can start much sooner.

The website welcomes comments and ideas, and invites online submissions on projects designed to accelerate reduction of child mortality. UNICEF’s methodology in innovation work emphasises the importance of understanding the needs of users and the geographic, social and economic barriers that limit access to life-saving supplies and services.

Innovate for Children also strongly focuses on research and development that maximises opportunities for good ideas to be generated, shared and acted upon. It features UNICEF stories that highlight the work of UNICEF staff in a number of initiatives in technological and product innovation.
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