Innovate, Save Lives, Advance our World

Innovate, Save Lives, Advance our World

As we enter 2018, the humanitarian challenges of the previous year amplify, with increasing population numbers, greater impacts of climate change and frequent yet unpredictable natural disasters. The call for innovative solutions to alleviate poverty and build stronger communities grows louder each day.

Recent years have seen multiple creative and impactful solutions to global aid and development. The Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF) has been publishing an annual guide “Solutions That Save Lives & Support Development” bringing attention to some of the most innovative cutting-edge technologies, products, and services that support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Read our summary of the eminent innovations featured in the guides over the past three years.

This February, AIDF will be hosting an "Innovator of the Year Award” as part of the Aid & Development Africa Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Aiming to recognise inspiring leadership, creative problem-solving and innovative approaches to aid and development, the competition will celebrate individuals as well as teams who have made an impact on driving Africa towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The judges of the “Innovator of the Year Award” include Karin Kallander, Senior Research Advisor at Malaria Consortium, Catherine Wiesner, Regional Refugee Coordinator at UNHCR and will be presented by Anne Macharia, Current Affairs and Environmental Reporter, KU.TV. According to the judges, equity, inclusion and poverty alleviation are paramount; therefore an award-winning nomination needs to consider factors such as affordability, feasibility, and acceptability as well as the impact among intended users. For instance, how does the innovation/solution benefit the poor and vulnerable? Will all gender groups have equal benefit and access?

The shortlisted finalists will be declared on 15th January 2018. The winner of the award will be announced on 28 February 2018 at the 3rd annual Aid & Development Africa Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. For more information, click here.

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2017 particularly saw many social innovations, including the following:

1. Paperfuge

A lifesaving tool costing only 20 cents to produce can help diagnose diseases like malaria and HIV within minutes, without electricity. 

Paperfuge is a hand-powered centrifuge which can hold blood samples on a paper-made disc and spin the samples at extremely fast rates to separate blood from plasma, preparing them for disease testing.

This revolutionary device can enable precise diagnosis and treatment of the poor in rural, off-the-grid regions of developing countries, where such diseases are most prevalent.

2. Industrial Paper Airplanes for Autonomous Aerial Delivery

These cardboard gliders are capable of making precise deliveries of critical supplies and then disappearing in a span of days. Named the world’s most advanced industrial paper airplanes, they are made with a biodegradable material and equipped with GPS and other electronics, allowing them to be dropped by a plane and deliver two pounds of life-saving materials without needing to be retrieved.

DoNotPay is a chatbot which provides free legal aid. Particularly beneficial in low-income communities, this robot lawyer can assist with a variety of issues, from refugees applying for asylum to everyday consumers wishing to fight corporations who try taking advantage of them.

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From Solutions That Save Lives & Support Development – 2017 Edition, the following have caught our attention:

3. 3M Bomb Blast Film 

3M Scotchshield Safety & Security Window Film (3M S600) saves lives. Specifically designed to withstand rapid increases in pressure resulting from detonations of high-explosive projectiles, the film’s micro-layer, tear-resistant design prevents the fragmentation and dispersion of glass.

This innovative blast film reduces severe injuries and fatalities in active conflict zones, in the event of explosive bomb blasts. When applied to school and kindergarten windows and hospitals, 3M S600 can protect the most vulnerable of civilians.

2. A Better Focus Co.

Providing solar energy for various applications, including cooking and power generation, A Better Focus offers a range of inexpensive, high-energy concentrating solar dishes which utilise newly developed reflective films. These films have been found to offer superior performance to glass mirrors, whilst providing similar long-term durability to glass.


ESRI uses terrain analysis and GIS mapping to determine the best location to place food distribution points. Due to reduced walking times, the attendance of beneficiaries at food distribution points can increase by over 30%, improving lives and reaching those most often marginalised.

1. Tiguri Green Village

The Tiguri Green Village provides the quickest and most cost-effective way to build a connected, sustainable community. Designed to provide marginalised groups with shelter, sanitation, and safety, the Green Village is fully integrated and enables access to electricity, clean drinking water, and a self-contained waste processing system.

2. Mobile Obstetrics Monitoring (MOM)

Philips’ MOM service is smartphone-based digital health service which can significantly enhance maternal care. Identifying expecting mothers at high risk of pregnancy complications, this system can significantly reduce maternal mortality rates.

Using the MOM service, midwives in remote locations are able to share vital measurements, observational data and mobile ultrasound images with obstetricians and gynaecologists in hospitals, and collaborate to provide better care to mothers.

3. AFRIpads Menstrual Kits

Made using high-performance textiles, these sanitary pads are reusable and provide effective protection for 12+ months of menstrual cycles. The kits are cost-effective, whilst providing superior feminine hygiene protection and comfort. With many African females being compelled to rely upon crude, unhygienic and uncomfortable materials to manage their menstruation, AFRIpads are an incredible, empowering solution.

1. SkyLIFE Technology

SkyLIFE packs are aerodynamically engineered to float harmlessly to the ground, in order to deliver essential aid supplies to disaster victims in need over expansive areas. Containing food, water, hygiene, power, blankets, shelter and communication devices, SkyPacks are ideal for saving lives until other disaster relief mechanisms may be employed.

2. GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping

GIS mapping allows for the visualisation, analysing and interpretation of geographic data to understand relationships and trends. Infectious diseases, such as Ebola, can be identified and prevented, with GIS digitally mapping and visualising outbreak locations, casualties and fatalities. Disaster risk maps may be additionally created, recording the impact of flooding, climate change adaptation, and natural resources. Significantly, it has further potential to increase humanitarian funding due to greater NGO transparency. The system can show donors the precise influence of their contributions. 

3.  HydroPack

Imagine immediately creating safe drinking water from any water source. HTI’s HydroPack promises exactly this, being a personal water purification pouch which filters the water by simply being placed into the source.

Easily distributed, HydroPacks can produce approximately 47,000 litres of clean water from a standard cargo pallet.

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Image Source: AidAction

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