What does it mean to design for the developing (as opposed to the developed) world? This is a question we have explored through both class readings and project topic research. Why are existing healthcare waste management protection technologies not being utilized? How can hospital-based postpartum hemorrhage treatments be redesigned to be implemented in home-birth settings? Dr. Bob Malkin, a biomedical engineering professor at Duke University and founder of Engineering World Health, cited several key considerations in developing world designs, including cost, availability of spare parts, and presence of technical staff.

While we were in Kampala, we were able to meet with Dr. Moses Musaazi, an engineer who has mastered the art of designing innovative solutions for his community. One of his primary accomplishments is the development of MakaPads, a brand of feminine hygiene pads. “Menstruation for many girls means no more education,” said Dr. Musaazi. Menstruation is highly stigmatized in Ugandan society, and young women would rather stay home than let others see any visible bloodstains. Cost of hygiene products made them inaccessible for many girls, so he designed a lower-cost version that combined locally-grown and highly absorbent papyrus, in-country production, and environmentally friendly, biodegradable manufacturing and materials. At less than half the cost of imported products, his MakaPads have ensured that more girls are able to continue their education, in addition to employing local workers and reducing plastic waste.

Another innovative design of Dr. Musaazi’s is his Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks (ISSB). Current methods of brick production in Uganda involve firing clay bricks and transporting them to a building location. However, the process of digging clay from the ground severely damages the environment and the cost of brick transportation is high. During our drives along the Ugandan highways, we saw numerous brick kilns and the destroyed fields left behind after the clay had been obtained. Using Dr. Musaazi’s method, a small amount of concrete is mixed with soil and pressed into blocks. The resulting bricks are stronger than fired clay bricks, more cost-effective, and require less mortar to assemble structures.

Design for the developing world requires more than just bringing developed world technologies to lower-income countries. To create sustainable change, new solutions must be engineered to be low-cost, adaptable to the parameters of less developed infrastructure (frequent power outages, for example), and culturally appropriate.

Post by Meggie, Picture by Manish

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *