design for extreme affordability
Design for Extreme Affordability, a graduate course offered by Stanford University, aims to give students the tools needed to “design products and services that will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.”

Offered by the university’s Institute of Design, 40 students from a variety of different disciplines complete the course each year, producing ten final projects that aim to achieve cheap solutions to serious global problems.

They are taught design and marketing principles, form student teams, collaborate with local partner organizations, travel to their project sites, prototype and test their products and present their final projects product proposals. According to the Stanford course website, emphasis is placed on “design for the developing world, including economic, technological and cultural considerations.”

When the course is completed, many students actually fulfill their proposal and see their idea through to completion. In fact, a considerable number of Design for Extreme Affordability projects have found global success.

For example, Embrace, an international nonprofit maternal and child health organization, was created as a result of the course. The Embrace Warmer, the organization’s central product, is a low-cost innovation to help care for premature infants in developing countries.

Usually, the solution for premature infants is to place them in an incubator until they are able to regulate their own body temperature. However, incubators are expensive and require electricity, training to use and maintenance. Consequently, mothers in less-developed countries must find different methods to save premature infants from hypothermia. They often resort to using fire, light bulbs or hot water bottles, all of which are dangerous and ineffectual. There was a clear need for an affordable, non-electric and safe method to keep infants warm.

This was the challenged posed to one team of graduate students taking the Design for Extreme Affordability course, and the Embrace Warmer was its result. The price tag is under 1 percent of the cost of a standard incubator, and its wraparound design is durable, portable, safe, hygienic and very effective.

The Embrace team’s idea has blossomed into an international organization that has reached over 50,000 infants across the world and made a real impact.

Stanford’s Design for Extreme Affordability is not just another school project. It is an intensive year where dedicated and motivated students–with support from expert staff–create practical solutions to life-threatening global problems.

With the courses direction, students have been able to consistently create innovative products that are making a difference in the world today. Hopefully the course will continue to inspire the university’s gifted students to direct their talents toward the global community.

– Emily Jablonski 

Sources: Embrace Global, Huffington Post, Stanford
Photo: Stanford Daily

“We are hungry and we need jobs,” says a Yemenis woman, who faces a recording camera while standing on the side of a dirt road. Her clothes are stained by sand and her eyes are bloodshot, but she responds with firm assurance to questions in a recent YouTube video composed by activists from Support Yemen, who aimed at facilitating dialogue in the capital city of Sana. Topics ranged from the ongoing political instabilities that the region faces to other matters, such as closing the gap between civilians, military, and tribal forces. These are not the only factors hindering Yemen’s economic and social progression, as high food prices, endemic poverty, diminishing resources and influxes of refugees and migrants are also damaging the region from within.

In hopes of relieving some of the hunger the Yemenis people are facing, much needed food support will be streamlined into the region thanks to recent contributions by the Government of India and the World Food Programme (WFP.) After a Comprehensive Food Security Survey was conducted in Yemen last year, WFP found 22 percent of the population was living under severely insecure food standards. This has led the WFP to set a new goal at providing five million people in 16 governorates with food assistance and programs to strengthen their community’s resilience.

It has also been announced that the WFP will be appropriating a budget of $495 million for programs and activities in Yemen, starting in 2014 and ending in 2016. WFP’s continued effort in Yemen has already provided assistance to 5 million children, pregnant women, and internally displaced persons (IDPs.) In a place where nearly half of children younger than five years old are malnourished and stunted, there is still much more that can be done.

Doing their part in combating hunger in the area is the Government of India, who recently contributed $1.8 million in an effort that will aid almost 121,300 people most in need of assistance over the next six months. Those funds were used to purchase approximately 2,600 metric tons of wheat, which will provide emergency food assistance for 3.5 million people, 600,000 IDPs, and other nutritional support for 405,000 children under the age of five. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sa’adi, a representative for the Government of Yemen, had this to say about the donation: “We are grateful to the government and people of India for providing this timely donation and we highly appreciate the cooperation between WFP and India in delivering assistance to those in need.”

Appropriated funds going towards Yemen will provide relief over the next few years, but it will only prove temporary if sustainability and community resilience aren’t increased in the area. With a growing deficit of $3.2 billion and poverty rates on the rise since 2011, it is important to realize the consequences which many men, women, and children will face after they have taken a toll. As donations come into the area from across the globe and programs are constantly being implemented into Yemen communities, it is hopefully a fruitful sign of things to come.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: WFP, WFP (2), Saba News, Yemen Times, Albawaba