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World Health Day: Engage & Transform Fund for COVID-19 Recovery
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World Health Day: Engage & Transform Fund for COVID-19 Recovery
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On 7 April, the UN Observance of World Health Day 2021 calls for building a fairer, healthier world for everyone in the post-COVID-19 pandemic circumstances when communities are experiencing health and socio-economic challenges globally. World Health Organization (WHO) recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has massively undercut health gains, and raised new inequalities by pushing more people into difficulties around basic necessities related to unemployment and food security in particular.

As many IsDB member countries (MCs) have been hit the hardest, the US$500 million Transform Fund of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) announced its 4th Call for Innovation, thematically dedicated to Building Resilience through Innovation in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Paying particular attention to MCs-specific development needs is enshrined in IsDB’s 10-Year Strategy and its President H.E. Dr Bandar Hajjar’s Five Year Program (P5P). Dr Hajjar considers science, technology and innovation (STI) to play a key role in elevating the MC’s self-sufficiency and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“IsDB is keen to expand support to the MCs to build capacities around the 4th generation of industrialisation that uses science and technology to prevent global value chain disruptions under outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” observes Dr Hajjar.

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Dr Hayat Sindi, Senior Advisor to IsDB President on STI and Supervisor, Communities Outreach programme, observes “It was a pressing need of the moment that the new call focused entirely on supporting IsDB MCs’ response to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We aim for building a stronger, more resilient, and prosperous future, she anticipates.

On World Health Day, the assurance of a healthier world for all reiterates the SDGs visions, as the Goal 3 envisages to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The 4th Call is hosted by IsDB’s Engage innovation hub which already works along six focus SDGs (2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9) addressing potential interventions in the areas of food security, healthier lives, inclusive and equitable education, sustainable management of water and sanitation, access to affordable and clean energy, and sustainable industrialisation.

IsDB’s Transform Fund invests in testing early-stage innovative ideas and in scaling innovation by providing seed money for innovators, entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs, and institutions. IsDB Engage provides needed initial funding or growth capital to develop and commercialise innovations that will generate economic and social impact.

Health, SDG 3 and COVID-19

Launched in 2018, IsDB Engage and Transform Fund have already shown their particular support to the SDG 3, as over 35% of projects from its first two Calls for Innovation (2018 - 2019) were dedicated to good health and wellbeing (SDG 3). The third Call (2020) titled Enhancing Member Countries Preparedness and Response to COVID-19 Pandemic was fully dedicated to supporting its 30 winners (Transformers) in the frontline taking the challenge against COVID-19 or developing helpful interventions in such context.E_WEB_03_bb54.png

Transformer Fund’s support led to the remarkable outcome in the areas of telehealth, mhealh and telemedicine, even before the 3rd and 4th Calls focused on COVID-19 .

2019 Transformer EduCast in Pakistan trained 450 women eDoctors from across the world under CDC and WHO guidelines by expert trainers from Stanford University in the US. These doctors served 175,000 COVID-19 patients in Pakistan, with 24/7 monitoring and counselling. Similarly, 2018 Transformer Sehat Kahani from Pakistan facilitated over 85,000 consultations to marginalised people during COVID-19 pandemic using its telemedicine platforms and online pool of over 1,500 female doctors. They’ve also used telehealth to train Pakistani doctors in line with national COVID-19 guidelines to significantly contribute to lessening healthcare system burden.

More hope in the horizon

With these extraordinary examples, brave 2020 Transformers from the 3rd Call have pledged to take on new COVID-19 challenges, to name a few – developing coronavirus rapid test in Senegal; electronic case surveillance in Sierra Leone; a wireless vitals-monitoring device for COVID-19 patients in Pakistan; innovative communication management to decrease response time during COVID-19 emergencies in Palestine; using mobile Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to connect frontline workers with remote vulnerable populations during the pandemic in Lebanon; integrated healthcare communication system to reduce faulty referrals from medical professionals in Mozambique; digital health platform to mobilise financial resources from the state government in Nigeria; mobile clinics in African countries including Guinea and Mali.

Other 2020 Transform Fund projects are also working on online education in the context of the pandemic, for people with disabilities in Pakistan and for students in Malaysia, for refugees in Jordan using mobile-based learning, even enabling AI-based digital health, entrepreneurship and innovation network in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Transformers will also handle interventions around handwashing kits in Uganda; WASH solutions in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestinian territories; micronutrient-deficient young women in Bangladesh and mobile-based telemedicine service Sudan.

With Transform Fund support, it is expected that 2021 Transformers of the 4th Call will similarly take on new COVID-19 challenges and change the way affected communities can interact with the world, now restricted and undermined in many ways by the pandemic.

The 2021 Transformers are expected to carry on the legacy of using innovations to support local communities in less-advantaged and resource-limited settings.

They are also expected to show an exemplary use of science, technology and innovation (STI) leading to better health outcomes, lessening of overall socio-economic burdens and creating innovative pathways to COVID-19 recovery for a more resilient and prosperous future.