5 innovations that have changed children’s lives

History shows that a seemingly small innovation can make a huge difference in children’s lives and that solutions don’t have to cost much or involve complicated technology. Consider these examples and find out more in the interactive The State of the World’s Children 2015 report: Reimagine the future.

Iraq, May 2013. UNICEF worker Abduljabar prepares oral rehydration salts for four year old Ahmed. Ahmed lives with his brother and parents in a small room amongst five other families in the Domiz refugee camp in Northern Iraq. Domiz is situated near the city of Dohuk, about forty miles from the Syrian border. Approximately 40,000 Syrians are living here, in facilities provided for around half that number. April 2013 marked one year since Domiz camp opened in Dohuk, Northern Iraq. In that time it has grown to a tent city of nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees. UNICEF provides services in education, child protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, and health and nutrition. UK Nat Com local copies of these files at \Unicef-mediaphotosCOUNTRIESsyriaSY2013-refugees-IRAQ

1) Oral rehydration salts

A little packet of salts and minerals became one of the most powerful weapons in the child survival revolution. Dehydration and acute diarrhea can take a child’s life within hours, but when mixed with clean water, Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) can quickly reverse the deadly loss of essential fluids. So many adults are alive today because ORS saved their lives as children.

A 1987 postage stamp from the Central African Republic bears the text 'UNICEF' and shows a woman filling a container with water at a Mark II handpump in a village clearing. The stamp also bears the text 'Village Handpump and International Decade of Safe Water and Sanitation' in French. The India Mark II deep-well handpump was developed in 1974 in collaboration with the Government of India, private industry and UNICEF. The durable low-cost device, which became a part of India's rural drinking water programme, was soon exported to many other developing countries. UNICEF's support for the Mark II helped position the organization at the forefront of the international drive to bring safe water and basic sanitation to poor communities.

2) A water pump designed by a self-taught Indian mechanic

After devastating water crises in India, UNICEF led the development of a locally manufactured hand pump, the India Mark II, in 1976. This durable, easy-to-maintain machine (commemorated in this stamp from the Central African Republic) has since provided fresh, clean water to millions of families and children, setting the standard for water pumps all over the world.

A woman feeds her malnourished child a ready-to-use therapeutic food, used in the management of severe acute malnutrition, at an outpatient therapeutic feeding centre run by the international humanitarian organization Concern, a UNICEF partner, at the Protection of Civilians site on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in the city of Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State. In mid-August 2014 in South Sudan, 1.3 million people have been displaced since resurgent conflict erupted in mid-December 2013. An estimated 695,172 of the displaced are children. Some 442,600 people have also sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The conflict has also worsened the nutrition situation in South Sudan. Nearly 1 million children under age 5 will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014, and 50,000 children are at risk of death from malnutrition by the end of the year, if efforts to save them are not accelerated. UNICEF has appealed for US $151.7 million to cover emergency responses across the vital areas of nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); protection; education; multi-sector refugee response; and cholera response. By 19 August, 52 per cent remained unfunded.

3) Lifesaving peanut paste

It’s been called the “miracle food” for its power to bring a child back from the brink of starvation. This protein and vitamin-packed peanut paste comes ready to eat, does not need to be refrigerated or mixed with water, survives heat and cold and can be administered anywhere by anyone to help a malnourished child gain up to two pounds a week. The only thing hard to swallow is the name: ready-to-use therapeutic food or RUTF.

Provincial immunization supervisor Jean-Claude Niyonizigiye pulls a measles vaccine vial from a supply box, at a Red Cross in the commune of Kinindo, in the western Bujumbura Mairie Province. The facility is serving as a vaccine storage depot for the health district of Bujumbura Mairie Sud during the campaign. Health districts, classified by the Ministry of Public Health, are distinctive from administrative divisions. From 18 to 21 June 2012 in Burundi, an integrated measles vaccination campaign is being held as part of nationwide Maternal and Child Health Week activities. The campaign aims to vaccinate more than 1.4 million children aged 6 months to 5 years old against the easily preventable but highly contagious disease, which can cause severe complications and death. Worldwide, the disease remains a leading cause of death among young children: in 2010, an estimated 139,300 people – mainly children under the age of 5 – died globally from measles. But significant progress has been made: from 2001 to 2011, measles deaths worldwide decreased by 71 per cent, with the largest decline (about 85 per cent) in sub-Saharan Africa. Measles coverage in Burundi had surpassed 92 per cent by 2010. Nevertheless, outbreaks of the disease continue, with 8 districts affected in 2011. The nationwide campaign is being implemented by the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF and other partners. Children under age 5 are also receiving vitamin A, which has been shown to reduce the number of measles deaths by half. Children and women are also receiving deworming tablets. Burundi’s campaign is also part of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, a global partnership led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

4) Buying power

As the world’s largest buyer of vaccines—2.8 billion doses in 2013—UNICEF has the ability to buy at scale, move markets and drive down the price of children’s vaccines. Small efficiencies quickly add up to lives saved. Here’s one example: a projected $500 million in cost reductions on the new rotavirus vaccine will allow an additional 50 million children to be immunized against the second-biggest killer of children under five.

5) Convention on the Rights of the Child

A simple idea. Children are human beings with rights. Twenty-five years later, through the power of The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the world is a far better place for children to grow and thrive. A baby born in 2014 has a dramatically improved chance of living to see his or her fifth birthday. A child living today—girl or boy—is far more likely to go to school, far less likely to work in a factory or mine. CRC-inspired changes in laws and practices have improved the lives of children in every region of the world.