When a baby is born prematurely, inexpensive treatment can be the difference between life and death. One Indian engineer is being recognized for creating an easy to use, affordable breathing machine that has the potential to save newborns around the world.
Nitesh Kumar Jangir, the co-founder of medical device firm Coeo Labs, won the inagural Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award in London on June 14. Jangir designed the Saans machine to treat premature babies who suffer neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, the leading cause of death in premature infants, often due to a lack of immediate access to complex medical equipment.
The Saans is the world’s first Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device for newborns that can be powered in multiple ways including through direct electricity, rechargeable battery, and manual air pumping.
Prince Harry, who acts as the Youth Ambassador of the Commonwealth, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland presented Jangir with the award. Jangir is one of 14 innovators from across the world who won a trophy, certificate, and £2,000 ($2,540 USD) in prize money for their impact or potential of their innovations to advance one or more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in Commonwealth countries.
The awards are split into five categories: improving people's lives, boosting prosperity, protecting the planet, promoting peace, and building partnerships for development in the commonwealth.
Jangir has been developing the Saans device for four years and over the past three months introduced it in colleges and hospitals in India that lack adequate facilities for newborns. The device is at least three times cheaper than any machine like it and does not require complex training.
“Anyone, anywhere can use this device and deliver crucial support to premature babies," Jangir said, according to India Today.
In countries like India, where large areas texperience poverty and have unstable electrical supplies or limited resources at public hospitals, mortality rates are roughly 10 times higher than in wealthier countries. The world's most premature babies are born in India.
It is estimated that each year, 15 million babies in the world, more than 1 in 10 births, are born too early. Babies born too soon are vulnerable to infection and breathing can be difficult because of their underdeveloped lungs. Pre-term labor (three weeks or more before the usual 40 weeks) is higher in women who experience poverty –– two-thirds of premature births happen in 15 countries.
Every year 1.1 million premature babies die globally but with the help of inexpensive treatments that devices like Saans can deliver, 75% could survive. The Commonwealth award will help increase the use of the Saans in Commonwealth countries and other communities around the world that need it.
"Our mission is to try and ensure that babies don't lose their lives due to the lack of access to a piece of technology," Jangir said.