African Inventions
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way the world operates, forcing the globe to turn to virtual settings and create physical distance in the presence of others. Five African inventions prove useful during the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening health care responses and offering protection against COVID-19 infections.

5 African Inventions Helping During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Tiba Vent. Kenyan student Daniel Kabugi and a team of 15 others developed the Tiba Vent in 2020, a portable, low-cost “mechanical ventilator” that aids the respiration of patients who have contracted COVID-19 and “other acute respiratory illnesses.” With the Tiba Vent, Kenya is expected to increase its resources from 500 ventilator units to more than 30,000. This low-cost machine comrpises 90% locally sourced materials and was in the process of clinical trials in July 2020. The Tiba Vent has the potential to save millions of lives in Kenya and beyond.
  2. Wellvis COVID-19 Triage Tool. Nigerian Dr. Wale Adeosun is a co-founder of Wellvis, an app that launched in 2019 to facilitate the online sharing of health information and services. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the creators of the Wellvis app decided to integrate into the platform a tool called the Wellvis COVID-19 Triage Tool. The tool uses responses to clinical questions to determine an individual’s COVID-19 risk level. The tool then directs the individual to the “appropriate next steps.” The Wellvis app, in general, allows for the online scheduling of remote appointments. In this way, the app can aid medical professionals by alleviating crowds in doctor offices and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The app also provides health information and a “question and answer platform” to combat misinformation and increase access to reliable health information.
  3. Handwashing Machine. Sanitation is important to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid infection. In 2020, Stephen Wamukota, a 9-year-old boy from Kenya developed a handwashing machine that has become a complete game-changer in his community. Standing as one of the simplest yet innovative African inventions, this basic machine utilizes foot pedals to dispense water and soap so that people do not have to touch any surfaces with their hands during the handwashing process. This process significantly reduces the risk of infection and provides a community with the opportunity to safeguard their health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Dr. Car Robot. Originally a project from Dakar Polytechnic School students in Senegal, this robot allows for the delivery of medications, takes body temperatures and measures the blood pressure of COVID-19 patients at the hospital without the need for human interaction. Controlled remotely from an app and equipped with cameras, the Dr. Car (or Docteur Car) robot “speaks four languages,” which makes it accessible to a large audience in African hospitals and reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  5. 3D-Printed Masks. With the huge demand for protective face masks across the world, South African innovator Natalie Raphil is using a 3D printer to produce 100 3D-printed face masks per day. Raphil’s idea for 3D-printed masks came about during South Africa’s most intense level of lockdown “when imports and exports were at a standstill and PPE was in demand” for health workers in the country. Raphil’s invention allowed for an inexpensive, efficient way to supply masks to health professionals at the forefront of the pandemic.

A Look Ahead

Amid a global health crisis, African innovators and changemakers of all ages have developed creative solutions to help address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These recent African inventions are proof that when humanity faces a new hardship, innovation prevails.

Kler Teran
Photo: Flickr

3 Inventions Saving Babies in Developing Countries
A baby’s first, sole focus should be on growing. Babies with low birth weight and pre-term babies in developing countries face a higher risk of developmental disorders and neonatal death due to lack of access to healthcare. Devices such as the Pumani bCPAP, the NIFTY cup and the Embrace Warmer are inventions saving babies throughout developing countries.

The Pumani bCPAP

The primary cause of death in preterm babies is Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). As such, the lungs are one of the last organs to develop in utero. Jocelyn Brown, a bioengineering student studying in Malawi created an affordable solution: the Pumani Bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (Pumani bCPAP). The English word “breath” translates to “pumani” in the language of Chichewa.

A traditional bCPAP device is among these inventions saving babies because it is readily available in developed countries. However, it costs $6,000 and is not affordable to people in Malawi. Brown collaborated with physicians at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. The hospital had access to bottled oxygen, which administers low-flow oxygen through a tube connected to nasal prongs. Unfortunately, when treating neonatal RDS, it only had a success rate of 25%. On the other hand, the Pumani bCPAP almost triples the survival rate for preterm babies and costs less than $400 to manufacture.

The device uses a type of air pump that makes this innovation affordable. The Pumani bCPAP replaces the traditional high-tech commercial flow generator with a simple aquarium pump. Aquarium pumps are easy to repair and low-cost. Furthermore, it provides the exact airflow pressure necessary for the bCPAP device.

The Saving Lives at Birth Transition grant aided in distributing the Pumani bCPAP to hospitals throughout Malawi in 2012. Additionally, funding from the global healthcare company GSK and Save the Children helped roll out the device in Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using a small cup to feed newborns who are unable to breastfeed. However, no such cup existed until Seattle Children’s hospital, PATH and Laerdal Global Health and the University of Washington worked together to develop The NIFTY Cup.

The NIFTY cup is a handheld, flexible cup made from silicone rubber. It has a design specifically for babies lacking the ability to breastfeed due to prematurity or craniofacial birth defects like a cleft palate or lip.

Mothers who do not have a NIFTY cup make do with whatever they have. Instead, mothers commonly use spoons, gravy boats, shot glasses or coffee cups. However, they can waste a lot of milk due to spillage and it is often challenging to monitor the amount the baby is drinking. Moreover, too much or too little milk can be dangerous for a newborn.

A mother is able to easily fill the NIFTY cup directly from the breast. There are volume markings on the side to monitor the amount the baby consumes. Furthermore, the cup’s design allows babies to suckle from the spout at a controlled pace. In addition, the cup is easy to clean, reusable and only costs $1.

The developers share a mission to save the lives of newborns in developing countries all around the world. PATH’s Trish Coffey said, “We know there are potentially millions of babies who need it. So we just kept at it.”

The Embrace Warmer

The Embrace Warmer is one of many inventions saving babies in developing nations as well. Four Stanford graduate students had the task of inventing a cost-effective device to treat premature and underweight babies who are unable to regulate their body temperature. The invention looks like a baby-sized sleeping bag but functions similarly to a traditional medical incubator. Additionally, it costs less than 1% of what an incubator costs. This is extremely important for developing communities in rural villages.

The inventors gathered research in a rural, poverty-stricken area of Nepal. They saw firsthand the importance of adapting the invention to make it accessible to communities that needed it the most. The team relocated and launched the first model in rural India. It is common practice in these rural areas for parents to not name their baby until it is a month. This is so parents do not get too attached to newborns in case they do not survive.

Additionally, the team developed a washable, affordable model that is seamless on the inside to avoid bacteria. Placing the wax insert into boiling water for a few minutes heats it up. The wax’s melting point is the human body temperature. Furthermore, it maintains its temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit for four to six hours. Fortunately, it does not require electricity. It is reusable and mothers can hold their babies while they are inside an Embrace Warmer.

The founders of Embrace debuted the invention in rural India in 2011. Then, Embrace joined forces with Thrive Health in 2015. Thrive Health is an international nonprofit with an accomplished newborn health program. Embrace Warm has aided more than 200,000 babies.

These inventions save babies’ lives in vulnerable, developing nations and aid in the reduction of population growth. Parents are more likely to have fewer children if they are confident in their survival. According to Bill Gates, “As children survive, parents feel like they’ll have enough kids to support them in their old age. And so they choose to have less children.”

– Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Help People in PovertyMore than 700 million people globally are living in extreme poverty. Through the use of creativity and innovation, individuals and organizations have come up with inventions to help people in poverty improve their living conditions.


In 2019, 770 million people globally did not have access to electricity and most of these people reside in Africa. In 2010, four Harvard undergraduates developed the SOCCKET ball so that impoverished people could have an alternative light source in their homes. The kinetic energy stored in the durable soccer ball is generated through kicking. The ball can then be used to power an LED lamp. During the day, children can kick the soccer ball around for fun. At night, it can then be used as a power source. With 30 minutes of movement, the ball can power an LED lamp for three hours.

The SOCCKET ball requires further revision and development because people have reported durability issues. However, the concept can inspire other innovative energy inventions.

The Wonderbag

Open fire cooking contributes to respiratory diseases and greatly impacts the health of people. Unfortunately, more than three billion people around the world do not have another means of cooking. Open fire cooking also means that girls and women lose a significant amount of time and labor that could be better used for educational and developmental endeavors.

The Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker created to help eliminate the need to cook over fires. After bringing a pot of food to the boil and placing it in the insulated Wonderbag, the food will continue cooking for up to 12 hours without additional heat. The Wonderbag has a range of positive benefits. It reduces indoor air pollution by 60% and saves 1,000 hours that would otherwise be lost in unpaid labor.


Since many impoverished people do not have access to electricity, they usually also do not have refrigerators to store food optimally.

The Evaptainer is a portable refrigerator that can prolong the life of food in warmer climates. The eco-friendly container does not need electricity due to its innovative cooling technology. The Evaptainer can also store medicines like insulin.

Liter of Light

Liter of Light is a global, grassroots movement that uses inexpensive materials to provide solar lighting to impoverished people without access to electricity. It began in 2011 with the aim of providing low-income communities in the Philippines a source of light. Recycled plastic bottles filled with water and bleach are secured into the roof to provide lighting daytime. The bottle lights can be upgraded with micro-solar panels and LED bulbs for low-cost night lighting. Liter of Light has installed more than 350,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries.

Although poverty continues to be a global issue, people around the world are creating new inventions to help people living in conditions of poverty. These small innovations are working to change the lives of millions, one invention at a time.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Ukrainian InventionsUkraine is the second poorest country in Europe, with a per capita GDP of less than $3000. Ukraine had a difficult time rebuilding its economy after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and was left with a crumbling economy due to corruption, poor infrastructure and many other factors. Despite the shortcomings of Ukraine’s economy, it has shown incredible potential for innovation and ingenuity because of the high-tech inventions that have come out of the Ukrainian workforce. Increased investment in Ukrainian inventions would drive it to success and improve the economy by creating stable work conditions. Improving infrastructure and creating sustainable job opportunities would help the economy grow and help Ukraine continue making world-renowned inventions.

5 High-Tech Ukrainian Inventions

  1. Grammarly: Grammarly was founded in Ukraine by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn in 2009. Grammarly uses AI software to proofread text on sites like Google, LinkedIn, various social media sites and more, while offering grammatical corrections. It is now a U.S.-based company and a widely popular tool for producing academic papers, professional documents and other bodies of text.
  2. Snapchat Filters: Snapchat filters and lenses first came about when Snapchat acquired Ukrainian startup, Looksery. Looksery is a facial recognition software that allows users to put filters on themselves while video chatting. Looksery was bought in 2015, started by a Ukrainian team with Victor Shaburov as the CEO. Snapchat uses the technology to create its filters, one of the many successful and important updates to the social media app. Instagram, another social media app, followed in the footsteps of Snapchat and introduced a version of Instagram photo filters in 2018.
  3. Apps for Deaf People: BeWarned, a Ukrainian-based startup co-founded by Vitaliy Potapchuck, is an application that people who are deaf can download on their phones to help them communicate with others. Potapchuck is also deaf and designed the app to pick up possible dangerous sounds and call for emergency help. BeWarned also makes other software for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  4. Virtual Reality Gloves: In 2016, a Ukrainian team of engineers created a prototype virtual reality glove that allows users to “feel” virtual reality items as if they were real. The glove mimics real-life hand motions and is used for a variety of things besides virtual reality gaming. Healthcare professionals can use the glove to study mobility and disease treatments. Co-founder, Denis Pankrushev, wanted the technology to “open new horizons for mankind.” This opened doors for virtual reality innovation and put Ukrainian technology startups in the spotlight.
  5. Uber for Yachts: The company CharterClick was started by three Ukrainian immigrants in Dubai to provide an easy way to rent a boat or luxury yacht for events. The team created CharterClick to show that complicated tasks like renting an expensive cruise with a full crew, can be completed in a short amount of time with just a few clicks. The service operates in more than 40 countries and is dubbed “the world’s most convenient vessel booking service.”

Ukrainian Inventions: Potential for the Economy

Ukraine ranked second place in the Top Three Innovation Economies by lower-middle-income group according to the Global Innovation Index. It is also ranked 45th in the world by the Global Innovation Index. There is massive potential for Ukrainian technology to continue its path of innovation and unlock itself to the European market. International investment can help improve the poor infrastructure that drives creative minds and job opportunities out of the country.

Google Ukraine’s CEO recognizes the brilliant minds of the country, but notes that many of them choose to work in the U.S. because of more “favorable conditions.” Favorable conditions include better infrastructure, better pay and a market that attracts investors. Ukraine is closed off to the international market because of its poor societal conditions, which is detrimental to its working-class and the overall economy.

How Supportive Infrastructure Will Improve the Economy

Ukrainian infrastructure is one of the main reasons that working in the country is difficult. The majority of the roads in Ukraine are too poor to carry cargo and passengers, limiting trades in the country and making it difficult to get to work. Ukraine has set an infrastructure plan for 2030 that includes improvement of all transportation systems with a high price tag. Over the next 10 years, Ukraine requires up to $25 billion of investment to complete the plan as it can only fund $.1.5 billion per year on its own.

Transforming Ukraine: Inventions and Infrastructure

Putting technological growth in the spotlight will attract more investors that want to see the Ukrainian technology sector thrive. Much-needed funding can come from international attention to the infrastructure problem. Improvement will create construction job opportunities and motivate the government to tend to the sectors that are struggling.

Ukrainian inventors should be able to work in their own country without having to migrate to another. Not to mention that infrastructure improvement will help many other citizens easily find work and improve the economy. Ukrainian inventions have the potential to kickstart the country’s economy and help with its development.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Innovations in AfricaAfrica has struggled with healthcare for decades. Low life expectancy due to poor healthcare and high infant mortality rates are some of the healthcare issues that Africa still struggles with. Healthcare innovations in Africa are helping to improve the health and well-being of African people in several ways.

Medical Drones

Doctors in Rwanda are able to order blood or medical supplies via text message and have them delivered to remote areas via drones. The drones facilitate the timely availability of blood supply for medical use in hard to reach areas. Transfusions of blood are critical for situations involving significant blood loss due to hemorrhage during pregnancy or child delivery. Blood transfusions are also necessary for women with severe anemia. This innovation thus reduces maternal mortality rates in Africa.


Pelebox is a smart locker that dispenses medication for patients. When the patient’s medicine is ready for pickup, they receive a text with a code that opens the locker. Before Pelebox, patients would wait hours in line with other sick people to receive their medicine which would further spread diseases. The hope is that this innovation will also lighten the load for medical staff, allowing them more time to focus on critical needs.

KidzAlive Talk Tool App

The KidzAlive Talk Tool app uses games and animated videos to educate children in South Africa about HIV/AIDS and combat stigma at the same time. The stigma of HIV/AIDS prevents people from accessing treatment. The KidzAlive Talk Tool app seeks to end this stigma and educate children to prevent the spread.

Crib A’Glow

The Crib A’Glow is a portable, solar-powered crib that utilizes LED lights to treat jaundice in babies. Roughly 3.3 million babies in sub-Saharan Africa do not receive proper treatment for jaundice, which can lead to hearing loss, cerebral palsy, mental struggles and even death. A whole 600 babies with jaundice have already received treatment with Crib A’Glow.

With the onset of COVID-19, innovations emerged to address the issue of limited healthcare resources in Africa and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tippy Tap

The Tippy Tap is a hands-free and water-efficient handwashing station. Making a Tippy Tap is low-cost as it requires only simple materials such as sticks, string, a container for water and soap. The Tippy Tap helps prevent the spread of diseases and is currently helping Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Respire-19 Portable Ventilator

This portable automatic ventilator was created by a Nigerian engineering student. Ventilators are essential to prevent respiratory-related deaths due to COVID-19. The Respire-19 portable ventilator is an easy way to help combat the shortage of ventilators in Africa.

3D Printed Face Masks

South African innovator, Natalie Raphil, is able to create 100 face masks a day from a 3D printer. These masks are then delivered to major South African hospitals to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Around half of all COVID-19 cases in Africa come from South Africa so face masks are especially essential for the region.

With the healthcare innovations in Africa, quality of life and life expectancy will improve. Especially during a global health pandemic, access to these healthcare innovations proves critical to protecting the health and well-being of people. Africa’s healthcare system can develop even further with the help of more healthcare innovations.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Boosting Health in the Developing WorldThe health of those living in developing countries links to impacts caused by lack of access to food, clean drinking water, shelter and health care. Recent inventions have come about with the aim of boosting health in the developing world.

Flo Menstrual Kit

More often than not, girls in developing countries either cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. This makes it extremely difficult for them to go about their days, particularly if they are in school. Flo is a menstrual product that allows the user to wash, dry and carry a reusable menstrual pad with dignity. The concept was developed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The Flo menstrual kit was designed with the following issues in mind:

  • School: Due to social stigma, girls worry that people will find out that they are menstruating at school. This fear is compounded by a lack of private restrooms in most schools in developing countries. This can cause girls to miss school or drop out entirely.
  • Hygiene: Reusable pads that go unwashed can cause reproductive infections and illnesses.
  • Privacy: It is difficult to find a private place to wash a reusable pad in rural areas and in schools.
  • Stigma: Menstruation carries a stigma and it can create a lack of confidence in girls who do not receive enough support surrounding the subject.

Flo addresses these issues, allowing girls to have productive days and stay in school while normalizing menstruation.

Hemafuse Autotransfusion

Hemafuse is a handheld device used for the autotransfusion of blood during an operation. This mechanical device was created by Sisu Global Health, a woman-led small business originating in Baltimore, Maryland. After members of Sisu Global Health witnessed the “soup ladle” method of blood transfusion in a Ghanaian hospital, they wanted to create a safe alternative accessible to all. Sisu Global Health originally invented Hemafuse to treat ruptured ectopic pregnancies, however, the device can also help replace or augment donor blood in an emergency situation. This device is imperative for developing countries as standard autotransfusion technology is very costly and these countries often do not have a ready supply of blood.

Kite Patch for Malaria

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, approximately 405,000 people died from malaria. The majority of these deaths were young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is just one of several deadly diseases spread by mosquitoes. Others include the Zika virus, West Nile virus and dengue. The purpose of the Kite Patch is to eradicate malaria and reduce the amount of mosquito-borne diseases across the globe.

The Kite Patch is unique in that it does not use toxic DEET, poisons, pesticides, insecticides or any other harsh chemicals. The Kite Patch is long-lasting and it can be applied to clothing as opposed to the skin. It works by manipulating and interrupting the smell neurons and sensor arrays insects use to find humans. The company has started the Kite Malaria-Free-World Campaign to help rid the world of malaria forever.

Child Vision Self-Adjustable Glasses

According to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), in developing countries, more than 100 million youth between the ages of 12 and 18 are nearsighted. The CVDW estimates that 60 million of these youth do not have access to vision correction options. The CVDW attributes five reasons for this lack: awareness, access, affordability, attractiveness and accuracy.

First, people may not know that they have poor vision or that vision correction is a possibility. Second, rural areas tend to not have optical care stores to purchase eyeglasses. Third, eyeglasses are expensive, and usually, one must attend multiple appointments.

For many, this means missing work, which is often a luxury that they cannot afford. Fourth, adolescents are often concerned about their appearance and risk mockery for wearing glasses because glasses go against the norm. Finally, many people with glasses in developing countries are ill-fit for them due to poor testing or untrained opticians, which can harm already poor vision.

The Child Vision initiative aims to address these five reasons with self-adjustable glasses for youth aged 12 to 18. The initiative will utilize school-based distribution programs to provide children in the developing world with glasses.

Pocketpure Portable Water Purifier

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate access to safe drinking water affects one in three people globally. Pocketpure is the invention that just might change that. In response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, George Page founded the Portapure company with the intent to provide access to clean drinking water for all.

Portapure’s first invention was Pocketpure, a reusable, on-the-go device that can filter dirty water and make it clean enough to drink. It is essentially a collapsible collection cup with a water treatment apparatus and filtration unit that removes viruses, bacteria and other unsafe particles. With proper distribution, this device has the potential to provide clean and safe drinking water to millions of people around the world. Pocketpure is one of the inventions boosting health in the developing world.

While providing accessible health care for all is no easy task, these inventions show that work is in progress to combat the global health crisis. One invention at a time, innovators, creators and free-thinkers are boosting health in the developing world.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Innovations
Since the 1990s, world leaders have made tremendous progress in their efforts to unite and lead the fight against world poverty. However, poverty remains a prominent issue worldwide. Only five countries have achieved the goal of allocating one percent or more of their federal budgets toward foreign aid. The United States is not among these countries, despite surpassing the next eight countries combined on military spending.

The Big Picture: Poverty Around the World

Statistics are useful indicators of how poverty affects certain regions, but to further understand global poverty, it is also important to explore the living conditions for individuals under the poverty line. Lack of clean water, sanitation and nutrition leads to harsh living conditions for poverty victims, rendering them vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. In some parts of the world, children march on their feet for hours a day to locate and bring back drinking water.

Funds allocated to underprivileged areas can massively improve conditions for people living in poverty. For example, funding can be used to improve education, which leads to higher levels of self-sufficiency and reliance. Beyond funding, aid can also come in the form of poverty innovations — technology or other creative inventions that bring resources to those in need. Here are five poverty innovations designed to help the world’s poor.

5 Impactful Poverty Innovations

  1. LifeStraw: Access to clean water is vital to alleviating poverty and improving living conditions. Not only is clean water important for drinking, but it can also be used for bathing, washing clothes and performing general sanitation. One in nine people worldwide — 785 million people — lack access to safe water. LifeStraw is a portable water filter that turns contaminated water into safe drinking water. It does not require any batteries, and it uses a hollow fiber membrane. 3.4 million children have received a year’s supply of drinking water through a program organized by the company.
  2. KickStart Irrigation Pumps: A majority (80%) of Africa’s poor are small-scale farmers. These farmers frequently go hungry during periods of drought. KickStart offers tools such as the MoneyMaker Max, an irrigation pump that sprays 16 gallons of water a minute and pulls from water up to 23 feet deep. KickStart has sold nearly 350,000 products so far.
  3. Plumpy’nut: This is a therapeutic food supplement that helps children with severe malnutrition. More specifically, it’s a calorically-dense and nutritious paste wrapped in a foil packet. The paste is made of peanuts, as the name suggests. It’s easily replicable and responsible for “significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa.” Products like Plumpy’nut have the potential to save children’s lives in particularly poor parts of the world.
  4. Life Sack: Another tool aimed at solving the world’s water crisis, Life Sack is a shipping container that can be used to hold grains. Once the food is stored, Life Sack functions as a water purification kit that is powered by solar energy.
  5. The Hippo Roller: This invention addresses the problem of carrying water. The Hippo Water Roller eliminates the need to carry water, instead allowing individuals to push a barrel filled with water. By the end of 2015, 46,000 Hippo rollers were provided to communities across at least 20 countries.

The fight to end global poverty requires not only financial support from wealthy nations but also innovations that improve the living conditions of the world’s poor. While the innovations listed above improve water collection, irrigation and nutrition for poor individuals, increasingly creative inventions will be necessary to eradicate poverty across the globe.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

inventions that help people in povertyResearchers and innovators across the world are creating new inventions that help people in poverty meet their needs for adequate nutrition and medical care. Here are five inventions that are helping those in need.

5 Inventions That Help People in Poverty

  1. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a small cooking tool that aims to conquer iron deficiency in marginalized communities. Iron deficiency impacts over 2 billion people globally, making it the most widespread nutritional disorder around the world. People affected by iron deficiency may experience negative impacts on their energy levels, concentration, memory and cognitive development. Iron deficiency affects women more than men, and it is especially common during pregnancy. Users just add the Lucky Iron Fish to boiling water so that it can enrich their liquid or vegetables with iron.
  2. 3-D Food Printing: Food printing is relatively new among inventions that help people in poverty. Nevertheless, 3-D food printing can create a stable food source for impoverished areas. This innovation can also address malnutrition through custom features that allow creators to set standards for nutritional additions. Additionally, 3-D printing may be a solution to food scarcity when a country is dealing with a natural disaster. While bringing all of these benefits to impoverished areas, food printers also produce less waste than traditional methods of food production.
  3. Feedie: People around the world already love to snap pictures of their delicious meals before posting them onto their social media. Feedie is an app that allows users to help feed people around the world by just taking a picture of their meal. Each picture turns into a donation to The Lunchbox Fund. This donation will go toward producing meals for people in poverty all around the world.
  4. Golden Rice: Vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health issue due to its severe impact on children around the world. This deficiency is responsible for over 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness in children under the age of five. Invented to solve this problem, Golden Rice is a new type of rice that has been genetically modified to contain three new genes that help create provitamin A. Many countries rely on rice as a food source, which means that switching to Golden Rice will not be a drastic diet change. In 2019, the Filipino government became the first among developing countries to allow Golden Rice for direct use among citizens.
  5. Growing Shoes: Many children in poverty around the world are at risk for soil-transmitted diseases and parasites if they cannot afford a suitable pair of shoes. Growing Shoes is a durable shoe that expands in several places, which allows children to adjust the size as their feet continue to grow. In all, the shoe can grow up to five sizes. These shoes therefore provide a long-term solution to protecting children in poverty from dangerous environmental factors, like disease.

People around the world are creating new inventions that help people in poverty and those experiencing hunger. These small inventions help an entire community with just one iron fish, grain of rice or growing shoe at a time.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

DIY innovationsTechnological advancements have improved the lives of millions of people worldwide, but production, transportation, marketing and storage costs can mean that the world’s poorest communities, and those who need technology the most, do not have access to innovations that could improve their lives. Many communities in need have had to get creative and use do-it-yourself (DIY) innovations to better access everyday necessities, such as water and electricity, at little to no cost.

As a result, inventors and organizations have created low-cost, energy-efficient and locally-sourced technologies that can be made and used by communities in the poorest regions of the world. While generally low-tech, these homemade innovations provide incalculable benefits and opportunities for poor populations. Below are some simple DIY innovations that are improving the lives of poor communities.

Biosand Filters

A biosand filter is an adaptation of a traditional sand filter that cleans and purifies dirty water of dirt, bacteria and pathogens. Biosand filter systems can be purchased, but because of their simple design, they can also be made locally using common materials and simple instructions available online. In its most basic set-up, the biosand filter requires only a container, clean gravel and sand. The sand layer in the filter traps and kills bacteria as the micro-organisms get stuck and feed on each other. More organisms die because of lack of food and light further down in the sand layer and into the gravel.

Childbirth Kits

Childbirth can be a dangerous and life-threatening process in the developing world. In remote areas, getting to a hospital may take hours and care may cost more than the mother can afford. For example, 60 percent of African women give birth without someone who can safely deliver the baby.

A birthing kit may help ease birth and ensure the survival of both mother and baby. While many organizations create high-end, comprehensive birthing kits, organizations such as Midwives for Haiti and the Birthing Kit Foundation Australia create simple, effective birthing kits for as little as two U.S. dollars. Expecting mothers may even create their own kits. These kits include soap, a clean blade to cut the umbilical cord, a clean cord to tie the umbilical cord and a clean sheet for the mother and baby to lie on after delivery. Along with clean childbirth practices, the World Health Organizations estimates that these kits could help avert 6 to 9 percent of the 1.16 million newborn deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

Electrocardiography (ECG) Pads and Conductive Gel

By 2020, cardiovascular diseases are predicted to be the leading cause of death in most developing nations. Thus, machines that provide early detection and monitoring are extremely important. Since Electrocardiograph (ECG) machines are a basic technology found in most hospitals and clinics and because ECG tests are rapid, non-invasive and require minimal technical expertise to operate, they are an effective and cost-efficient technology, especially in impoverished areas.

ECG machine pads and conductive gel are disposable and highly useful in hospitals and clinics, but considering their high demand, replacing these supplies can be expensive, and more remote clinics may not receive regular shipments of supplies. Engineers of Engineering World Health have developed the idea for cheap, easily made ECG pads using brass snaps and the plastic lining of bottle caps. Their homemade conductive gel is just as simple to make from water, salt, flour and bleach. All the materials to make the pads and gel easily available and cheap, thus more easily accessible to poor communities in need of DIY innovations.

Rain Barrels

Nearly 844 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. Rain can be a precious alternative water source for poor regions. Although a simple concept, a good rain barrel or rain-fed pots and cisterns are simple and easy ways to collect drinking water. Rain barrels can be made using any sort of opaque bucket or large pot to prevent algae growth. Cutting a hole near the bottom of the container creates a spout for easy access to the water, and a simple screen placed over the top of the rain barrel keeps a majority of insects, particularly mosquitoes, out of the water. According to World Wildlife Fund, the average roof can collect around 600 gallons of water for every inch of rain. Capturing even a fraction of that water can help many poor households get enough water to survive.

Solar Water Bottle Light Bulbs

An estimated 14 percent of the world lives without electricity, with most of those without electricity living in rural, developing and poor regions. This lack of access to electricity means that many households do not have even simple technologies, like light bulbs. Luckily, the My Shelter Foundation found an inventive and simple way to bring accessible light to dark slums in Manila. Closely packed houses in slums get little light,.but a plastic water bottle filled with water and a drop of bleach solves this problem. By attaching the water bottles to holes in the roofs of these houses, light refracts from outdoors into the house, just like an electricity-dependent light bulb. The light bulb can last for five years before the water needs to be switched out.

These simple DIY innovations utilize materials readily available to poor residents, creating an accessible and usable innovation. Unfortunately, these light bulbs are only functional when the sun is out. So, the Liter of Light project, launched in 2012 by the My Shelter Foundation solved that problem as well. Adding a test tube with a small LED light into the water bottle and powering it with a small, inexpensive solar panel makes these water bottle light bulbs fully functional during cloudy days and at night. The organization’s simple light bulb can light a room up to 50 square meters for a minimum of 12 hours, powered by a 10 watt solar panel, and they have even been used outdoors as street lamps, creating safer communities.

Since 2012, these simple lightbulbs have lit 850,000 households across over a dozen countries such as the Philippines, Egypt, and Columbia.

Water Distillers

Water distillers are another DIY innovation that can be made easily with common household materials to make water safe to drink and free of.salt, heavy metals, bacteria, and other contaminants. Homemade and solar-powered distillers work by mimicking the natural water cycle; as the sun provides heat energy, pure water evaporates, leaving behind impurities. When the water condenses again, it can be collected and safely drunk.

Gaza resident Fayez al-Hindi created and built his own homemade, solar-powered water distiller. His concrete tank holds the water and the elevated glass collects the clean, evaporated water. An even simpler version of al-Hindi’s distiller can be made from two plastic water bottles attached together. Leaving the bottles in the sun at an angle allows the rising evaporated water to condense in the clean empty bottle, away from the dirty water. While these solar-powered distillers provide clean, safe-to-drink water, the evaporation and condensation process takes a long time. Al-Hindi’s distiller can make 2.6 gallons of water a day, but, because of their simple design, homemade water distillers may be an important innovation that is most accessible to the poorest communities.

These DIY innovations not only physically improve the lives of people in poverty, but they encourage independence, creativity, and self-empowerment in poor regions of the world. High-tech inventions like water distillers and light bulbs can be made from cheap and local materials, and show that life improvement need not always rely on aid from foreign countries, but on creative innovations.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Landmine CrisisLandmines are a destructive weapon of war that often times outlive the conflict they had been implemented for. Today, civilians around the world are inheriting the landmine crisis from both current wars and earlier conflicts. An estimated 110 million landmines are active in the ground right now, killing and maiming more than 5,000 people every year.

The Difficulties of Landmine Removal

Although landmines are an urgent global issue, removing them is painstakingly difficult for three main reasons:

  1. Time—the detection and demining of landmines take a good deal of time. In fact, it is estimated that if landmines continue to be removed at the current rate (with no new mines added), it would take approximately 1,100 years to completely rid the world of them.
  2. Cost—mines only cost between $3 and $30, making them effective tools for combat in both cost and casualty effectiveness. Removing them, however, can cost between $300 to $1,000. Removing all landmines would cost anywhere between $50 to $100 billion. Since most countries affected tend to be poorer, the cost of mine removal can be extremely detrimental.
  3. Risk—most minefields are unmarked. It is not unusual to find mines laid in agricultural fields, around irrigation systems and in forests that provide villages with firewood. (That is if they are not inside the villages themselves). Civilians and professionals alike are at risk of death or severe injuries; for every 5,000 mines successfully removed, one deminer is killed and two more are wounded.

Instead of becoming discouraged by how problematic the landmine crisis actually is, one Indian teen rose to the challenge of innovating smarter landmine removal.

The Inventor of the Mine-Detecting Air Drones

One day, now 15-year-old techie Harshwardhansinh Zala came across a YouTube video of military men who were detecting landmines in an active minefield. While soldiers explained the landmine crisis to their viewers, one landmine exploded. Consequently, the blast killed and injured many of the soldiers present. The video horrified Zala, who felt like he could be doing more to aid in the demining efforts. This spurred him and a few of his friends to begin a startup electronics company named Aerobotics7. Their primary task? To create a prototypical air drone to replace human deminers. Hypothetically, the drone could detect and mark buried landmines while being remotely controlled by an operator at a safe distance.

Zala explains how the drone would work: “Our drone will go on to the field, survey the whole ground, send the real-time signals to the army base station, and our drone will also drop a package to mark the location. The army can detonate the landmines with our wireless detonator, without any human risk.”

Zala plans on giving the finished product to his government to help them safely detect mines.

Although his drone may not decrease the cost of removing mines or speed up the process of demining, it would help spot and mark landmines across the globe, potentially saving the lives of those who might have accidentally stumbled upon an unmarked minefield otherwise. Warning civilians of the dangers around them is the most time-sensitive aspect of the landmine crisis, after all, and though removing all landmines may take centuries, Zala’s air drone could be helping people stay safe today.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Sumit Baruh for Forbes India