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 Despite the heavy, serious, and sometimes morbid, nature of the posts on OBB, I am always searching for good news stories to share with you all.  Technological innovations that are to bring unbounded benefits to the world poorest fascinate me – whether this be a vaccine for HIV, a simple food product helping to fight malnutrition, or a simple baby warmer that is reducing deaths from low-weight births.  They bring me, and maybe you, a little bit of that wonderful thing called hope.

The inflatable donkey saddle may sound to you like a joke, a sex toy or a ride at a water-park.  It is, in fact, none of the above.  This simple device is made from inflatable camping cushions, the armrest from an air bed and part of an inflatable pool lounger.  The comfy saddle created from these components helps to ease the duress of long journeys to hospital for pregnant women living in remote, inaccessible areas.  Thus, it is encouraging women to make this trip as oppose to staying home to give birth, which leads to increased risks of mortality, especially where complications are involved.

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Invented by Peter Muckle and British charity HealthProm, it has received very positive responses from both the Institute of Mechanical Engineering’s conference on low-cost technology medical devices and Afghan women who have trialled the device.  Moreover, it is a key part in helping HealthProm achieve one of its key goals – reducing maternal mortality in Afghanistan.  Maternal mortality in Afghanistan is estimated to be 1,575 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest in the world.  To put this in perspective, the UK records around 7 deaths per 100,000 live births.  With an average of 7.2 babies per woman in Afghanistan, almost 1 woman in 8 dies from pregnancy related causes.  HealthProm’s project aims to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5A, to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015, and to reduce under-5 mortality in a very poor rural population.  They aim to show how this can be achieved in general through the example of their work in Afghanistan.

As with many innovations of this nature, there is the pleasant surprise that this is a genuine attempt to give and to help, as oppose to exploit or simply make money.  Peter Muckle has said that this product is not so much to sell.  He has merely created a pattern that will be given to those communities and countries that need it so that it can be produced locally and sustainably.

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