Bringing life-saving tech to conflict zones

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The new partnership will develop technology for conflict zones(Credit: EPFL)

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There are tens of millions trapped in conflict zones at the moment, having to live in desperate conditions and uncertainty. Cut off from basic services, those people need to rely on humanitarian aid to survive. A new partnership recently launched in Lausanne, Switzerland, will leverage the possibilities of new technologies so aid agencies can provide solutions where they are needed most.

Called Humanitarian Tech Hub, the project is a four-year agreement between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). It is hosted in the EPFL's Cooperation Development Center (CODEV) and works closely with the center's EssentialTech Program.

The multidisciplinary initiative will develop solutions for challenges in various fields, linking humanitarian efforts to the cutting edge of scientific applications.

The project's four main components include spotting needs and challenges to be solved with technology, a follow-up to ensure real-life success, encouraging entrepreneurial spirit so technologies can be scaled up to a feasible business model, and financial support for R&D efforts.

These components will guide the researchers in their attempt to meet various demands, such as power supply resilience for essential infrastructures, basic medical devices (X-rays, sterilizers, etc.), and large water treatment solutions.

The initiative will further boost ICRC's efforts, which already help thousands of people to regain physical independence through rehabilitation programs as well as prostheses the organization provides. In 2014 alone, ICRC supported more than 300,000 people worldwide.

The first solution coming out of the Humanitarian Tech Hub is an automated foot designed for amputees and compatible with all types of terrains. Program manager Dikolela Kalubi tells Gizmag that, apart from the prosthetic foot, "it is a little bit early to say exactly what we will come out of this collaborative effort. At the moment, we are trying to secure the four components to explore other topics."

The promo video below explains in further detail the initiative's humanitarian mission.

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