The Humanitarian Grand Challenge Announces Support for 27 Solutions To Help People in Conflict Zones


Categories: News Release

Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge awards $7.8 million CAD for bold innovations to assist the hardest-to-reach conflict-affected communities

August 2020, Toronto, Canada – Today, the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, an international partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, with support from Grand Challenges Canada, announced total funding of $7.8 million CAD for 27 intended finalists for the second call for innovations of the Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge. 

In the Syrian conflict, a crisis in its 10th year, 11.7 million people remain in need of protection and humanitarian assistance. In Yemen 24.3 million people lack access to basic essentials. Armed violence hinders delivery of life-saving assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Nigeria, and many other conflict affected areas. As the length, frequency, and scope of the world’s conflicts increase, humanitarian needs are growing and the humanitarian system needs to find new and innovative ways to support people affected by conflict.

The finalists were selected from a pool of 648 applications received from 80 countries – 37% of which are locally owned or managed. 185 applications, about one-third, involved projects led by women. The intended finalists, who stand collectively to receive $7.8 million in funding, will now put their innovative ideas into action to implement solutions that will provide, supply, or generate locally safe drinking water and sanitation, energy, life-saving information, or health supplies and services to help the most-vulnerable and hardest-to-reach people affected by conflict. These 27 intended finalists join the Creating Hope in Conflict’s first round of projects, which were awarded in 2018 and 2019.

The innovators leading these 27 solutions are based in 13 countries — Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Kenya, Korea, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States — and operate in low-resource, conflict-affected areas throughout Africa and the Middle East, including the four most volatile conflict affected countries in the world – Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. For more information on Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge, visit:



Humanitarian Grand Challenge Finalists


The 24 Seed projects selected as part of this second call for innovations will receive funding of up to $250,000 CAD each to support the validation and testing of new approaches. The following are the intended finalists :


  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – SmartPPE is the world’s first single piece, ventilated, and reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. The integrated ventilation system prevents the buildup of excessive heat, humidity and fogging inside the PPE, thus reducing exhaustion, extending working shifts, and creating a more visible, human interaction with patients.
  • SUNY Korea- 3D printed customisable ‘shoes’ for crutches and canes, to provide mobility assistance in challenging terrain. The alternative design will be customized to the local environment, adapting mobility aids for mud, sand, and other grounds found in conflict or refugee camp settings. 
  • Body Surface Translations, Inc. – AutoAnthro is a 3D scanning system which captures measurements of the human body, enabling easier, faster, and more accurate data collection to improve detection and outcomes for child malnutrition in conflict zones.
  • Community Innovation Hub- Telemedicine connecting women doctors and specialists to the hardest-to-reach and most vulnerable communities, including internally displaced persons, in Pakistan. 
  • Mandulis Energy, Ltd- Developing renewable off-grid energy in Uganda to turn agricultural residues into a baseload of electricity for microgrids in rural farming communities. Mandulis Energy purchases agricultural waste from refugee farmers, after providing them with high grade agri-processing services. The waste is then transformed into electricity and clean cooking fuel.
  • Kobo, Inc.- A natural language processing (NLP) toolkit for systematic recording, transcribing, and translating of interviews between humanitarian organisations and conflict-affected persons. The toolkit helps overcome language barriers to improve humanitarian response planning and accountability, by capturing and understanding community feedback in a more meaningful way. 
  • Bridge to Health Medical and Dental USA & MedGlobal*- Strengthening the healthcare system in Yemen by training local healthcare providers to use novel point of care ultrasound with cloud-based monitoring, focusing on pneumonia, trauma, and complications of pregnancy, for remote viewing from experts.
  • Bureau Diocésain des OEuvres Médicales de Mwene-Ditu (BDOM)- Addressing the development of renewable off-grid potable water and electricity resources for medical centres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The integrated water purification system combines water and power into one platform that only consumes water, has no filters, can generate clean water and electricity independently of wind or sunlight, and is technically simple, enabling local maintenance and repair.
  • Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA)- Improving safe sanitation through the development of a prefabricated, foldable membrane septic tank kit, offering reduced set-up times, maintenance, and desludging compared to pit latrine systems. 
  • Norwegian Refugee Council- Creating a dynamic, self-service digital platform that provides tailored legal aid to vulnerable populations based on users’ needs, location and profile, improving the delivery of legal aid services. 
  • Solar Freeze Ltd- Providing portable, solar-powered “Pay-as-you-store” refrigeration services for refugee and host communities in Kenya. This model will allow community owned businesses/health services to access portable solar powered refrigeration. The model includes women-led micro-franchises and training of young women aged 20-35 years as repair and maintenance technicians, providing skilled jobs at the refugee level.
  • Upande Limited- An offline Internet of Things (IoT) platform for Humanitarian agencies in conflict settings to monitor key water, sanitation and hygiene indicators, such as water level, flow, chlorine.  The plug and play, easy to operate, affordable offline tool, will allow local partners to maintain their own setup without external support. 
  • Stichting Elva- The Camp Forecast tool is an Artificial Intelligence-driven demand forecasting tool developed for humanitarian settings to allow for faster, more accurate, and cost effective supplies management. 
  • Prado Power Limited- Providing power for irrigation farming, post harvest storage and processing for products in Nigeria. The modular solar energy systems and machinery (including solar water pumps, grinding machines, threshing machines) will support agriculture in areas with no grid-power. 
  • Translators Without Borders US Inc.- Building cutting edge text and voice-based language technology in languages of northeast Nigeria to capture, understand and analyze questions and concerns from conflict-affected people quickly and accurately. Automated language support has the potential to dramatically speed up the feedback cycle, reduce costs for data collection, and improve the quality of the data used to inform humanitarian decisions. Ultimately, it will improve two-way communication between humanitarians and conflict-affected people. 
  • Pragmatic Innovation Inc.- Building a low-cost manually powered vacuum pump to help accelerate the treatment of large wounds. An air-tight dressing is placed over the wound and attached to a manually operated suction pump and drainage tube. Vacuum or negative pressure wound therapy significantly facilitates the healing of acute and chronic wounds, while preventing infection. Pragmatic Innovation’s apparatus is designed specifically for use in conflict-settings, at a fraction of the cost,  without electricity, and in patient’s homes.
  • World Vision Canada- An early warning system to inform water provision for internally displaced persons in Somalia. The system harnesses hydrological and meteorological data collected remotely using 3G water loggers and mini weather stations. When a water point is found to be compromised, a local repair team is deployed.
  • The MENTOR Initiative- Insect repellent “Envelope” to combat the rise of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in conflict settings. Made of WHO approved transfluthrin, these single sheets of thin plastic are hung up in the home, to provide a portable, simple and stable tool for protection against flying insects.
  • Action Against Hunger Canada* – SMART plus provides end-to-end digital infrastructure to provide fast, cheap and accurate child body measurements to address malnutrition. Data from 3D scanning is analysed for quality assurance, is aggregated into a central database, and results can be visualised on a public dashboard down to sub-regional level, to help inform humanitarian response.
  • Power-Blox AG*– Using ‘swarm’ technology to provide flexible, expandable and universal energy solutions.
  • President and Fellows of Harvard College through the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health*– Using a Visual Response Simulator to help respond to infectious disease outbreaks and forecast the effects of epidemiological intervention strategies.
  • Texas A&M University- San Antonio*– Developing innovative breathable laminate-lined pit latrines to protect groundwater, preventing vulnerable populations from fecal contamination and disease outbreaks.
  • Avigo Health L.L.C.*– Creating a digital birth-reporting system that provides reliable birth data in settings with large, internally displaced populations.
  • Syrian American Medical Society* – Leveraging community-based resources by training and supervising Syrian women to deliver essential and much needed mental healthcare to increase access to care amongst vulnerable children. This solution empowers women technically and financially while reducing the gap in access to mental health services in Syria. 


The 3 Transition to Scale projects selected as part of this second call for innovations will receive final funding of up to $1,000,000 each to support the validation and testing of new approaches. The following are the intended finalists :

Transition to Scale:

  • Sealr* – Harnessing Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, Sealr is an easy-to-use mobile phone application that captures verified imagery. Designed for use in remote and conflict-affected areas, the innovation will improve monitoring and evaluation of projects; decrease fraud, waste and abuse; and empower local beneficiaries to make unimpeachable reports about what their needs are and how they are being met.
  • The Sentinel Project* Enhancing its WikiRumours software, which enables geographically distributed teams to collaborate on monitoring, verifying, and countering the spread of harmful rumours and misinformation that contribute to intercommunal conflict. This technological work will support the scaling up of the Hagiga Wahid project in South Sudan and the Kijiji Cha Amani project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are mobile phone-based information services that engage communities in building peace by managing misinformation.
  • Nuru*Working to provide conflict affected populations with world-class connectivity, by deploying a 3.7MW hybrid minigrid site expansion, serving three neighborhoods in Goma. Reporting no more than 5% energy access, this site aims to provide critical energy infrastructure to improve the lives of the 125,000 people residing in this conflict-affected region of the Congo.


* Finalists, shortlisted for funding. 

Media Contact

For more information on Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge, visit:


For more information, please contact:

Zeba Tasci

Associate Communications Officer, Humanitarian Grand Challenge

[email protected]




About the Humanitarian Grand Challenge

Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, with support from Grand Challenges Canada. USAID, DFID, and the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have contributed $32.5 million for the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, which was launched in 2018 to enable local organizations, humanitarian agencies, and the private sector to work alongside affected communities to respond more nimbly to complex emergencies, address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering around the world, and empower people to create better lives for themselves. Grand Challenges Canada is implementing Creating Hope in Conflict on behalf of the investors. 



The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.


About DFID

The Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. DFID are tackling the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict. Its work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK too.


About the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the channel through which the Dutch Government communicates with foreign governments and international organisations. It coordinates and carries out Dutch foreign policy. Together with other countries, it works to tackle global challenges. The Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid (DSH) promotes stability: it supports humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and promotes peace and security, rule of law and good governance; before, during and after crisis situations.


About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation – known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,250 innovations in 105 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.6 million lives and improve up to 51 million lives by 2030.

  • Zeba Tasci