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Zimbabwe Activate Talks: Tackling challenges facing children through innovative solutions

© UNICEF/2014/Nyamanhindi
UNICEF convened Zimbabwean innovators and thought leaders for an Activate Talk.

By Richard Nyamanhindi 

HARARE, 30 May 2014 – UNICEF Zimbabwe has brought together five leading innovators at the second Activate Talks on the African continent following the first successful event held in Uganda in February. The event saw the innovators presenting their novelties on how to tackle some of the key challenges facing children in Zimbabwe.

The Activate Talks is part of UNICEF’s celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). UNICEF has declared 2014 the “Year of Innovations and Equity.”

“Innovation for equity means that we find ways of removing the barriers that deny children in Zimbabwe and the world over the opportunities to reach their full potential. In Zimbabwe, innovation also requires that we think differently, that we do something new that will add value to our children,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Reza Hossaini during the opening of the Activate Talks.

In his keynote address, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Paul Chimedza noted the importance of innovation in Africa and how as a country we need to challenge the young people to come up with solutions to the problems that we are currently experiencing.

“We need to recover our pioneering and innovative skills as a country and I challenge all innovators to rise to the occasion that is being presented by UNICEF as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CRC this year.”

“As government, we are backing innovation all the way and we need new ways of thinking and of doing things. We need to cultivate a very strong social entrepreneurial spirit – one that refuses to accept things as they are and seek solutions that will better the lives of children,” said the Deputy Minister.

The five presentations focused on water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS (point of care machine)social engagement, medical supply tracking system and a solar powered hearing aid for children.

Dr. Peter Morgan’s invention, the Blair VIP toilet (known internationally as the VIP) was showcased during the Activate Talks with a focus on how this simple innovation has helped millions of people across Africa to improve their hygiene and prevent killer diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

“The Blair toilet has revolutionized the water, sanitation and hygiene sector in Zimbabwe and Africa. The good thing about this innovation is that it can also be built by children with much ease and in the process prevent the spread of diseases that have potential to kill many on the continent’” said Morgan.

In the health sector, Dr. Sekesai Mtapuri-Zinyowera highlighted the pioneering work with the point of care equipment such as the PIMA machine that has drastically reduced the time health institutions and poor people in rural areas take to do the enumeration of absolute numbers of T-helper cells (commonly referred to as a CD4 count).

She pointed out how the small machine has become an essential part of monitoring the course of immunosuppression caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and then quickly initiating patients including children on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).

A young social entrepreneur, Nigel Mugamu is a social media champion. He launched Zimbabwe’s first chat platform called 263Chat 18 months ago through Twitter which he is using to engage young people about the challenges they face in their everyday life and linking them to policy makers.

Mkhululi Ndlovu, the co-founder of Westchase Consultants a technology firm with a foot print of developing and implementing technology solutions in over 16 African and Middle Eastern countries talked about how they have innovated technology solutions to manage information and drive efficiencies in the health and education delivery system. His organisation has come up with innovative ways to track drugs in remote rural institutions working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care thereby saving on time and allocating medicines where they are needed most. 

Tendekayi Katsiga the Operational Director of Deaftronics talked about how they are producing high quality low cost solar powered hearing aids made by people who are deaf for people with a hearing loss.

The company has also developed the first rechargeable hearing aid battery, which lasts for 2-3 years and can be used in 80 per cent of hearing aids on the market today. The solar powered device can be charged via the sun, household light, or a cell phone plug. The hearing aids have enabled deaf children in Zimbabwe and Africa to go to school and play with other children.

“Our products have enabled children to develop their hearing levels and speech. This has presented them with an opportunity to go to school. More than 5,000 hearing impaired children have gone back to school in the last year alone because of this solar powered hearing device. We believe that through education we can break the cycle of poverty,” said Tendekayi.

Zimbabwe is one of the 18 countries worldwide to hold an Activate Talks event in 2014. UNICEF Zimbabwe will continue to work closely with the presenters in order to strengthen the development of innovations for children.

Highlights of the ‘Activate talks’ events and presentations will be featured in this year’s State of the World’s Children report, which will be launched on 20 November 2014, the actual 25th anniversary of the CRC.



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