According to UNICEF, 6.9 million children under the age of five die from causes that have known cures each year. That’s 6.9 million children whose deaths could have been prevented, had someone intervened. Helping children around the world requires more than good intentions, it requires action. UNICEF points out that helping children survive past their fifth birthday also requires innovative thinking and new approaches in a number of different fields. In order to be part of the solution, UNICEF, along with The City University of New York (CUNY), has launched the 2013 “Design for UNICEF” Challenge. The Challenge, which is open to all 270,000 students at CUNY’s 24 colleges and schools, calls upon CUNY students to use their diverse skills to find solutions that could help improve child survival rates when faced with the top killers of children worldwide. At the end of the Challenge, three different student teams will be chosen as winners in September 2013, and these very lucky students will then have the chance to travel to a developing country to test their project with UNICEF.  Keep reading to learn more about the key killers of children worldwide, which also serve as the focus design areas for CUNY students.

Students who enter the challenge are asked to tackle one key problem that hinders child survival rates globally. These key focus areas include the following:

  • Malaria Challenge: How would you develop a cheap, unobtrusive way to determine how much insecticide remains on a bed net?
  • Water and Sanitation Challenge: How can we ensure long-term behavioral change to facilitate better sanitation and hygiene products?
  • Newborn Health Challenge: What would you do to prevent and/or manage one or more of the three main causes of neonatal mortality?
  • Breastfeeding Challenge: How would you promote and support breastfeeding among mothers?
  • Maternal Nutrition Challenge: What would you do to promote the use of iron supplements among pregnant women?
  • HIV Challenge: How would you ensure that pregnant women receive the entire course of services to prevent HIV?
  • Pneumonia Challenge: How would you reduce indoor air pollution in homes?
  • Diarrhea Challenge: What would you do to improve caregivers’ treatment of diarrhea?
  • Birth Registration Challenge: How would you improve birth registration of remote and impoverished populations?

The individual challenges shown above were specifically identified by UNICEF experts as issues that are roadblocks to childhood survival. However, beyond the areas above, students may also design their very own focus area, working to solve any problem that will help end preventable child deaths. Student solutions may be new products, new technologies, improvements to existent technologies or processes, or policies or strategies to achieve improvements at the system level. UNICEF notes that, “The dynamic and diverse students at CUNY’s 24 colleges and schools are equipped to offer the type of creative thinking needed to design effective solutions.” We agree, and though we think all the challenge areas are useful we’d love to see improvements around the world in the areas specific to breastfeeding and maternal health.

If you’re a CUNY student, or just someone who wants to learn about these problems affecting children globally, visit Fulfilling the Promise. At the website, CUNY students can also learn how to build a team, design solutions, and just maybe, change the world.

+ UNICEF Tasks New York City Students with Solving Pressing Challenges to Child Survival

Lead Image Courtesy of UNICEF