UNICEF is using its global status and its passion for the rights of children to acquire investments from businesses that provide children with technology that improves their health and overall wellbeing. Many of these UNICEF product innovations are reverse innovations, or low-cost technologies created in developing countries that can help save lives around the world. Out of 16 innovations, these five are exceptional for helping children thrive.
Complementary Feeding Bowl
A common problem in impoverished countries is hidden hunger, which is essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Even if children are getting enough to eat, they may not be consuming the nutrients needed for healthy growth and brain development. This puts them at a greater risk of having a vulnerable immune system. Depending on the nutrient deficiency, children could also face problems such as anemia, childhood blindness and diarrheal disease.
UNICEF product innovations hope to address this problem with a complementary feeding bowl. It includes a design with nutritional facts, as well as a list of ages and measurements to ensure each child receives the correct quantity of nutrients. A spoon that comes with the bowl helps provide the first solid food for children after breastfeeding by assuring that it maintains the right texture and quality.
Uganda has been facing extremely long droughts and intense rains, which facilitate the spread of disease. Cyclones threaten the Philippines, resulting in property damage, injuries and an increase in refugees. Additionally, Afghanistan is facing extremely cold winter weather. This intense weather plagues each country and imperils the survival of their residents.
Improving the quality of emergency response tents to be able to withstand various climate conditions is one of UNICEF’s goals, and the target product profile includes more than 1,000 requirements. Additions include a vertical wall design that resists high winds, electric and solar kits, winter liner and hard flooring. The tents are for multipurpose use: in addition to offering shelter from cyclones and earthquakes, they also provide protection against outbreaks of disease.
School Furniture Designs
Improving the quality of the school environment benefits the productivity of both teachers and the students. Teachers in low-income countries in Africa and Asia work for very little money and are often unequipped with the training and resources they need.
UNICEF product innovations aim to solve this problem through furniture designed for children and teachers to engage in a productive and comfortable classroom environment, particularly in Africa and Asia. Because the design uses local raw materials and manufacturing, it will benefit local economies and leave less of a carbon footprint.
Disability-Friendly Squatting Plate
Children with disabilities in developing countries are often seen as a burden to society. As a result, many do not receive the accommodations they need in education or daily life. This can lead children with disabilities to have low confidence in their ability to be independent.
UNICEF’s disability-friendly squatting plate aims to provide children who suffer from disabilities such as immobility or impaired vision with more independence. This innovation includes two devices that work together to help children with disabilities. The first is a squatting plate that offers support and can be screwed onto the plate of a toilet seat. The second device is placed on top of the squatting plate, making it easier to move onto the seat. Handles will also be a part of the design, offering balance. UNICEF will send 2,500 devices across the world each year.
The high cost of oxygen equipment makes it inaccessible in developing countries. Hypoxemia, or a low concentration of oxygen in the blood, is commonly found in children with pneumonia. It increases childhood mortality and contributes to the death of over 100,000 children in developing countries. In Nigeria, pneumonia accounts for 18% of childhood deaths.
UNICEF’s oxygen system planning tool helps countries map out the required oxygen equipment, technical specifications and guidance manuals for obtaining devices. UNICEF product innovations also include a range of products that provide oxygen, listed in its supply catalog. Responding to the need for oxygen during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has made this particular innovation a priority.
These five innovations are working to fight poverty in developing countries. They are just a few of many products developed through UNICEF that, though often simple, make a large difference in improving the lives of impoverished children around the world.
– Zoe Schlagel