New fund to boost humanitarian innovation

A boy drinks water from a tap outside a school in Kabul
More creative solutions are needed to solve water and sanitation problems, says new research (file photo) (Feroz Noman/IRIN )

The UK government has launched an “innovations fund” that aid agencies can use to develop, test and share new technologies or approaches to aid work.

Recent innovations include mobile phone technology to distribute cash; sending SMS early warning messages in Haiti, and computerizing ration cards in food distributions.

The US$1.4 million fund will be managed by ALNAP, the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action, and ELHRA, Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance - a network that boosts partnership between training institutions and aid agencies to try to improve humanitarian performance and better prepare the humanitarian community for the future.

“While the past 20 years has seen humanitarian innovation at the policy level... there have been fewer changes in how assistance is actually delivered... This fund is focusing on operational innovations in disaster contexts that aim to deliver improved humanitarian outcomes,” said Ben Ramalingam, ALNAP’s head of research and development.

Innovation is most pressingly needed in the sanitation sector, according to research by Caetano Dorea, assistant professor of water and environmental engineering at the University of Glasgow. Ramalingam said creative minds must prioritize how to adapt humanitarian response to a predominately urban world. “Haiti has shown how much of a challenge this is for us operationally,” he told IRIN.

A strategy group will evaluate funding proposals for the benefits and costs they expect to deliver; and will try to bring more donors on board “to turn the fund into a truly global pooled research and development resource for the sector,” said Ramalingam.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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