A liquid that keeps a baby’s umbilical cord clean, a quick and easy test for HIV and a cell phone phone program that teaches women in rural areas about their pregnancy- all simple solutions that can save thousands of lives, and worth up to two million dollars as of last week. The three projects were awarded a Grand Challenges: Saving Lives at Birth transition grant, bringing ideas proven to save the lives of women and babies in the developing world to more people who need them.
“Saving Lives at Birth,” is the first in a series of Grand Challenges for Development led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), bringing together doctors, health workers, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to showcase innovations with the potential to prevent maternal and newborn deaths.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced the three winners at a recent UN sponsored Every Woman, Every Child event. Smaller seed grant finalists were announced in July as part of the Grand Challenge, which awarded hundreds of thousands dollars for the development of innovations ranging from a fetal heart rate monitor to a ketchup packet shaped satchel of medicines preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
And The Winners Are…
- In Nepal, nearly 70 percent of infant deaths occur in the first month of life, and horrifically, the most common cause of death is infection. The JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. developed an antiseptic that that cleans the umbilical cord after a baby is born, and in a recent pilot study, it reduced the risk of death by 24 percent. JSI will use the grant to work with a local pharmaceutical firm and Nepal’s Ministry of Health to bring the life saving liquid available throughout the mountainous country.
- The Grameen Foundation has been using technology and microfinance to combat poverty for over a decade. In recent years, they’ve taken the information that millions of American mothers get from BabyCenter, and brought it to rural Northern Ghana. The cell phone based program delivers timely and reliable information to women about their pregnancy and early newborn’s health, information that was previously only available after hours of travel to a health facility for many women. The transition grant will allow the Grameen Foundation to expand their Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) project to 14,000 more pregnant women and 46,000 children under five.
- A simple, low-cost device that detects HIV and syphilis will be brought to health clinics in rural Rwanda, where tests for sexually transmitted infections are often unavailable. Columbia University will use the grant to ramp up the development of the test, and get it out into the rural communities. Early detection and treatment of infections can prevent stillbirths and other complications, and also prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to child.