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Finance & Innovation

The wait’s over: 5 simple innovations that save lives

Jim Holmes for AusAID

A gulf exists in the fight against poverty. If bridged, ending poverty would be immediately within reach. But it hasn’t been and so ending poverty remains elusive.

The gulf I’m talking about is between the development of solutions and their implementation.

The world usually has the tools to address the problems that plague and destroy the lives of those living in extreme poverty: sanitation, food scarcity, maternal health, newborn health, contagious disease and more.

But the world struggles to get these tools into the hands of the people who will benefit from them. A big reason for this is that many solutions are extremely costly and call for systemic changes to infrastructure.

Another reason is that cultural barriers block adoption of life-saving solutions.

The Innovation Countdown 2030 initiative is looking to explode this model by devising affordable, accessible and sustainable tools that can be widely disseminated and easily used to save millions of lives and transform the fight against poverty.  

Here are some of the coolest innovations highlighted:

1) Chlorhexidine gel: Infections from unsanitary conditions kill hundreds of thousands of newborns each year.

Chlorhexidine gel is a cheap and easy solution. Health workers apply the gel to the umbilical cord stump after birth and infections can be staved off.


More than a million lives are expected to be saved by this gel in the next 15 years.

2) The Zimba automated batch chlorinator: Contaminated water is a major killer around the world. Water systems can be compromised and the tools needed to purify water can be hard to access.

The Zimba automated batch chlorinator attaches directly to a hand pump or community tap and automatically cleans water without electricity or moving parts.

Zimba Water.jpgImage: Zimba

This device and others like it are expected to save more than 1.5 million lives over the next 15 years.

3) Polypill: Heart disease and stroke will cause the most deaths and disabilities worldwide by 2020.

In the developing world, gaining access to full medicine regimens to treat symptoms can be difficult.

The Polypill combines multiple, inexpensive medications into one pill to mitigate cardiovascular disease. Taking 1 pill instead of 10 makes it more likely that people will follow through on the daily regimen--and dramatically cuts costs.

4) Injectable contraceptives: Family planning is necessary wherever you live. But quality family planning options are contingent on where you live.

New contraceptive options aim to change that. The Sayana Press is cheap, easy to distribute and allows women to control the process through home injections.

One injection provides three months of contraceptive care.

5) Malaria medicine: The number of children who die from malaria each year has been reduced by half since 2000. But rates remain high and malaria is still one of the most feared diseases in the world.

The Plasmodium falciparum parasite that carries Malaria is resilient. Many vaccines and medicines have been developed over the years, but none of them are absolute.


A new vaccine aims to block mosquitos from picking up the parasite and then transferring it to other humans, limiting the spread of contagion.  

These innovations usher in a new era of “Frugal Innovation.”

No, this does not mean cutting aid.

It means investing in affordable, accessible and sustainable solutions to extreme poverty that will have immediate, measureable impacts.

Check out the report to learn how pioneering scientists and organizations are changing the fight against poverty.

If you want to ensure that more innovations like these get funding, TAKE ACTION NOW by calling on world leaders to make strong commitments to the Global Goals.