Innovating for children

A boy carries a drone at Chisazima village in Kasungu
UNICEF Malawi/2017

Innovating for Children in Malawi

In Malawi, UNICEF is using innovation to potentially solve problems quicker and more effectively. UNICEF sees innovation as an important strategy across our various programmatic and operational areas – child protection, education, health, HIV, nutrition, social policy, and WASH in both development and emergency contexts.

UNICEF Malawi is using innovation to help accelerate results for children, young people and communities. This is being done through the following initiatives:

Data intelligence

An integrated platform that uses the latest methods in geo-spatial and data science,  to provide real-time insights and information that benefit children and their families.

UNICEF is gradually developing a data intelligence node for planning, predication, prompting and prodding for change (4P2C). The aim is to provide accurate information for programming, monitoring and decision-making in the development process and humanitarian response.

By combining traditional and non-traditional sources of data, geo-spatial analysis, and artificial intelligence, 4P2C could develop information products that facilitate planning, prediction, prompting and prodding for change that benefits children and their families.

UNICEF is testing various concepts, such as monitoring schools, sanitation facilities and other infrastructure, mapping cholera cases and predicting flood levels.


In June 2017, UNICEF and the Government of Malawi launched the first humanitarian drone testing corridor in the world. Africa’s first flying lab provides a controlled platform for the private sector, universities and other expert organizations to explore how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to deliver services that will benefit children in marginalized communities.

As UNICEF scales up the application of drones to enhance children’s lives, it recognizes the need to consider solutions that enable Malawi to sustain the operations of such technology. Rather than importing drones and pilots for a short period to meet specific goals, UNICEF Malawi is working to teach locals how to make drones and train local pilots.

University students from Lilongwe holding low-cost drones they built. The drone delivered medical supplies over 19 km distance in Kasungu district.
UNICEF Malawi/2017
University students from Lilongwe holding low-cost drones they built.

Mobile and wearables for real-time data

UNICEF Malawi is working on the following innovations:

  • A real-time platform called Nutrition Commodities Tracking System which monitors stocks in 270 health facilities across 28 districts.
  • U-Report Malawi engages over 140,000 young people on issues that affect them through weekly polls, at an average 54% response rate.
  • A Mobile Reporting Tool for police and community victim support units to improve Child Protection in Malawi.
  • Revitalizing the mHealth tool called ‘Results 160’, which disseminates results for HIV early infant diagnosis and tracks samples.
  • Also, underway is a pilot project on the use of wearables and other devices and applications that collect high-frequency data on biomarkers,  to complement a study on child development.

Youth Engagement

UNICEF Malawi established an initiative called Data Incubator. With Data Incubator, Young interns are trained on geographic information systems (GIS) and engaged in ground-truthing and data analysis. UNICEF is also collaborating with the German National Committee on an online platform called that engages young people from Malawi and across the world to create and share content online.