Saving Lives at Birth – Innovation With Impact

Innovators share their projects at The Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange 2014. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children

“Innovation is the highway, impact is the destination.” Grand Challenges Canada CEO Dr. Peter Singer echoed this statement while speaking to newborn and maternal health innovators at the Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange 2014 in Washington, DC.

31 seed grantees, 40 seed grant finalists, 10 transition grantees and 11 transition grant finalists were on hand to present their projects at the morning marketplace and to see what new grantees would be getting support under the fourth round of funding at the afternoon forum. Organizers received over 500 applications from 60 countries for the fourth round. 

Rice University’s BreatheAlert, a high-performance, low-cost method to reduce death due to apnea of prematurity is demonstrated at the 2014 DevelopmentXChange. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children

The Saving Lives at Birth partnership was launched in 2011 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Government of Norway, Grand Challenges Canada, and the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID). It was founded to seek out innovative approaches to address the more than 1.6 million newborn deaths, 1.2 million stillbirths and 150,000 maternal deaths that occur within the first 48 hours of life. To date, they have funded 59 potentially game-changing innovations that have come from academics, students, faith leaders, businesses, universities and more.

An example of one of those innovative projects is chlorhexidine for umbilical cord care in Nepal by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. It was a first round grantee in 2011. With over 60% of women giving birth at home, newborn infections are now the third-leading cause of newborn deaths in Nepal. The antiseptic gel, which costs roughly 23 cents and is made locally in Nepal, helps to prevent that infection. It has since been scaled-up in 45 of the country’s 75 districts. Dr. Leena Khanal, Project Manager of the Chlorhexidine Navi Care Program said that chlorhexidine has helped to save 2700 newborn lives as a result of the Saving Lives at Birth grant.

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah gives welcoming remarks at the 
Saving Lives at Birth Forum. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children 

The afternoon’s forum event was highlighted by USAID Administrator Raj Shah’s talk with Dr. Paul Famer, Co-Founder of Partners in Health about innovation and the need for health equity. Several innovator projects including the now famous Odon Device, the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) from Uganda, Rice 360’s bubble CPAP device from Malawi, and a project by DPRC aimed at further empowering Islamic scholars in Northern Nigeria to promote MNCH among local health providers were presented.

Dr. Susan Wandera Kayizzi, Deputy Country Director for Amref Health Africa in Uganda, talks about the WE CARE Solar Suitcase at the 2014 DevelopmentXChange. The innovation is a transition grantee. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children

The 30 Round 4 award nominees were then introduced and came up to the stage to accept their award, filling it up almost to capacity in the process. It consisted of 26 seed grants and 4 transition-to-scale grants. This year’s awardees cut across newborn and maternal health and showcased groundbreaking ways to help improve the chances for newborn and maternal health survival during the most critical time of life.

The Healthy Newborn Network was among the partners at the Development XChange. The blogs below are from a series written by the innovators themselves.

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