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Using Innovation to Save Lives

How are Save the Children using innovation to save lives?

Through our partnership with GSK, we’re bringing together our unique skills and resources to find new ways to help stop children dying from preventable diseases. Save the Children has 100 years of experience in supporting some of the world’s most vulnerable children. GSK is a global, science-led healthcare company with experts in the research, development and supply of medicines and vaccines. Together we are using innovation to save lives.  Our partnership Chlorhexidine project is a great example of this.

What is Chlorhexidine and why is it important?

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that is often found in mouthwashes – it’s a key ingredient in GSK’s Corsodyl™ mouthwash.

In 2012, a United Nations (UN) Commission Report highlighted that Chlorhexidine could be used to help reduce deaths in newborns. It can be used to clean the umbilical cords of newborn babies and prevent potentially fatal infections. However, this potentially life-saving product wasn’t available in easy-to-use formats in developing countries. It’s estimated that if it was, it could potentially save 422,000 children’s lives over five years.

How did the ingredient in a mouthwash get turned into a medicine?

In response to this report, GSK scientists worked to turn the solution into a gel that could be so that it could be more easily used. The gel was developed to be suitable for use in high temperatures, useful in sub-Saharan Africa and S. Asia where the risk of newborn infections is high and temperatures are hot.

What was Save the Children’s role?

Through our partnership, we provided our expertise on how this newly formed gel product could reach the people who needed this product the most.

Our insights shaped the product packaging to be single-use foil sachets that could be opened without scissors. This means that the gel can be used by midwives and nurses but also mothers themselves, particularly if they give birth at home.

Has Chlorhexidine saved lives?

As a result, over 30,000 newborns have so far benefited from the new Chlorhexidine gel that we’ve developed. We’re also working to try help other communities access this gel too.


Kenyan mother holding her newborn baby whose life was saved by innovation
Meet Hedline Cherop, a 29-year-old mother with her newborn daughter Faith, outside their home in Bungoma County, Kenya. Hedline used Chlorhexidine gel to clean Faith’s umbilical cord when she was born. Her new baby’s cord healed more quickly and without infection.

How are we further using innovation to save lives?

We have co-developed a platform to find and progress innovations in global public health. We hope to use our expertise to accelerate innovations that could help reduce the number of mothers and children dying from infectious diseases in the developing world.
The platform pilots and tests new innovations and then shares the learnings and benefits with others which will help address critical gaps in global health knowledge.

What else are we doing?

Together we’re also looking at news ways to reduce the number of children dying from infectious diseases in Nigeria where currently a child dies every hour from pneumonia. This disease is easily preventable with suitable vaccinations and is treatable with low-cost medicines.

Through our partnership programme, we’re aiming to research and test what are the most effective solutions to reducing the number of children affected by infectious diseases. We will share these important findings across the sector to help drive change at scale.


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