Localizing solutions through inclusion of communities

UNICEF’s Private Partnerships Specialist, reflects on innovative ways to localize solutions through inclusion of communities and the private sector.

Abir Ibrahim
28 February 2022

Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) used to be imported—yet Sudan is one of the top five global producers of peanuts, which amounts to 14 per cent of the word’s peanut production. This inspired us to think, why not work with local peanut farmers in Sudan to fight malnutrition, which at the same time, can stimulate the local economy and create employment opportunities? And that’s exactly what we did in 2012. With high malnutrition rates among children under the age of five in Sudan, therapeutic food that contain locally produced peanuts high in nutrients was used in addition to the imported therapeutic food in treating severely malnourished children.

This is just one example of how UNICEF is constantly innovating to find new and improved ways to help children in need by leveraging country-level expertise and resources.

At UNICEF Sudan, we are always looking for effective ways to collaborate with the private sector— teaming up with foundations, diaspora and companies like Samil, Haggar, Zain and Center Trading Company– to find out what they are developing that we might be able to bend toward fulfilling children's needs in places like Sudan.

UNICEF worked closely with SALAM, a women-led social enterprise to locally manufacture and distribute nearly one million reusable face masks.

When we approach these potential partners, or when a potential partner comes to us, we sit down and talk through some of the challenges we’re trying to address in Sudan. We find out what kind of expertise can be brought to the table, and what we can learn from each other to help accelerate results better and faster.

For example, UNICEF Sudan and Haggar Group teamed up with students for a hackathon to develop a real solution that could bridge the gaps to further expand access to clean water in hard to reach and marginalized areas. Students came up with a winning Jerrycan design that was locally manufactured by ColdAir Engineering, a Haggar subsidiary. This local solution is helping to improve the health and wellbeing of children in their communities and schools and in health facilities.

UNICEF Sudan also consults young people who are driving transformational change in their communities across Sudan. Last year, in response to fuel shortage in the country, young inventors who are internally displaced by conflict in Blue Nile State built a solar-powered car to help them get to school. Adolescents worked to create innovating solutions to tackle everyday challenges while creating economic opportunities in the most at risk communities. UNICEF Sudan provided the additional technical skills, training, financing, and teamed up with state government and private sector to help take their innovation to scale. It is important to bring together all actors including government, multilateral organizations, civil society, and private sector to accelerate investments and collaboration toward sustainable development.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 response, Sudan was already mitigating a fragile healthcare system and economic situation.

Local women in Sudan also play a critical role in emergency response like COVID-19. UNICEF worked closely with SALAM, a women-led social enterprise to locally manufacture and distribute nearly one million reusable face masks. Now we took this partnership to scale and teamed up with local communities, schools and governments to research and provide information about menstruation, promote positive hygiene, break down taboos and facilitate local production of reusable sanitary pads in Sudan.

Monzir Mohamed, UNICEF Youth Ambassador, is one of the inventors behind the solar powered car

In 2022, UNICEF continues to build on our existing innovations, and we keep looking for new ones. Through UNICEF Business for Results initiative, we are maximizing the power of business and markets for children, from building capacity for localized production of Jerrycans, and sanitary pads to developing tools for artificial intelligence and many more initiatives.

No idea seems too big, through shared value partnerships, innovation and meaningful collaboration with private sector in the country, UNICEF Sudan is developing effective ways to drive innovation like RapidPro, U-Report, and exploring how a national Technology for Development strategy can accelerate results for every child in Sudan. These are exciting times for UNICEF to innovate, and I am excited about the future and what it holds for Sudan in many innovation projects and investments that will require strong multi-sector partnerships and coordination between UN, Public and Private actors and most importantly, young people who must be the center of this transformation.