With new technologies and innovations improving many aspects of daily life, humanitarian work should be no different.
Saving and protecting children for decades, UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, has been implementing new ways to reach families more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. In honor of World Creativity and Innovation Day (last Tuesday, April 21), meet five innovations that are making 2020 the start of a decade of good:
5. A cryptocurrency fund for game-changing ideas
Blockchain increases transparency, security and efficiency, as transactions are publicly visible and do not have to be converted into other currencies for immediate use. A first for the United Nations, the UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund is able to receive, hold and distribute donations in ether and bitcoin. The fund is helping accelerate and grow social good projects such as Prescrypto, Atix Labs, Utopixar and GIGA, which work in the areas of prescription tracking, investor-matching, community engagement tokens and bringing internet connectivity to schools around the world.
4. An inclusive period tracking app
There are more than 200 period-tracking apps; most are targeted to Western adult women and provide information that can be gender-stereotyping or fertility-focused. Founded by UNICEF’s Asia branch, Oky is the world’s first period tracking app co-created with girls, for girls. Packed with information vetted by global health experts, the app is tailored to Indonesian and Mongolian cultures and available in local dialects. To support further advancements in this sector, the app is open source, digitally inclusive and available even in areas where online access is limited. In its next phase, the organization plans to scale and adapt the app for use in East Africa.
3. Schools made from recycled plastic waste
There are three significant problems facing children in Côte d’Ivoire: There are not enough schools, there are not enough employment opportunities for adults and there is an overabundance of trash. Daily, the Abidjan metropolitan area produces 288 tons of plastic waste. Tackling all three issues, UNICEF works with Conceptos Plásticos to employ women to recycle plastic into bricks to build classrooms. The bricks, which will be used to build more than 500 classrooms across the country this year, are 100% non-toxic plastic, fire- and wind-resistant, waterproof, insulated and lighter and quicker to assemble than regular bricks.
2. Drones that cut transport times from hours to minutes
Drones help reduce carbon emissions and cut transport times from 1.5 hours driving to 25 minutes flying. Leveraging technology, UNICEF works with drones to deliver crucial medical supplies to the hardest-to-reach areas. The African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi, a first-of-its-kind program, trains and certifies young students across the continent on building, operating and maintaining the drones, building a pipeline of future experts in the field.
1. A warehouse that can send lifesaving supplies to anywhere in the world
With the world’s largest humanitarian supply warehouse, the UNICEF Supply Division is able to deliver necessities anywhere in the world as quickly as 48-72 hours. The size of four football fields, the Copenhagen, Denmark warehouse is equipped with enough health kits, vaccines, rescue gear and more to support 200,000 people at any given time. The warehouse is also home to an innovation lab that tests, designs and produces new and improved products needed in the field. In 2018, the supply network procured nearly $3.5 billion of goods and services for children in 175 countries and territories. In 2020, UNICEF expects to respond to around 300 emergencies and assist 95 million people with support.
To learn more about and support these lifesaving innovations, visit unicefusa.org/decadeofgood.