By: Lindsey Taylor Wood, Communications Associate
Zubaida Bai’s relationship with postpartum infection is a personal one. As a consequence of unsanitary birthing conditions and practices, she contracted an infection that led to years of suffering. Rather than allow her misfortune to deter her work, the engineer turned social entrepreneur shifted her time and energy toward developing a clean delivery birthing kit that could help prevent the deaths of the nearly 600,000 women and nine million infants that lose their lives to postpartum infection each year.
After spending three years providing technological and business advice to innovators on product development in India, Zubaida relocated to the United States, where she acquired a Master of Science in Global, Social and Sustainable Enterprise at Colorado State University. Her graduate studies underpinned the belief that codified innovations existed but had yet to be commercialized due to a lack of resources, and that social benefits had yet to reach the majority of the world's population; particularly women living in impoverished rural conditions. With this gap in mind, she and co-founders, Kellen McMartin and Habib Anwar founded AYZH.
AYZH is an organization that brings appropriate technologies in health and livelihood to women in rural India. Currently, its main focus is ensuring that women have access to their clean delivery birthing kit, JANMA. Each $2 kit includes biodegradable sterile surfaces, hand wipes, clamps and scalpel blades for cutting the umbilical cord, which helps to protect the women and children from hepatitis, sepsis, neonatal tetanus and other cord infections. Explains Zubaida, “JANMA is a modification of the free delivery kit available sporadically in the market through NGOs and government agencies that include a plastic sheet for women to lie on and a shaving blade for cutting the umbilical cord. The AYZH kit improves on this by offering consist availability and using a biodegradable sheet to replace the plastic sheet and a surgical knife to replace the shaving blade.”
AYZH has cultivated relationships with health workers, gynecologists, hospitals, clinics & primary health care centers to ensure that the kits are available throughout the country's system of rural clinics and hospitals. In a country that is home to nearly one-quarter of maternal deaths worldwide, and an estimated 20 million women suffering from infection, injury and disability connected to pregnancy or childbirth, AYZH’s business model is a welcomed solution for India’s women. In 2011 alone, they sold roughly 35,000 kits.
Due to the success of the kits, the organization has broadened its geographic scope. “We have sent over 500 kits to Haiti. There has been growing interest for our kits from Africa and South America with sample kits having been sent to Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa and Brazil. In addition, we are also in the process of developing customized kits for maternal & neonatal health as per our customer requirements. These kits are currently being evaluated by our medical advisory group,” said Zubaida.
The recipient of a Clinton Global Initiative University grant, Zubaida was also chosen as a 2009 TEDIndia fellow and Ashoka’s Maternal Health Champion for 2010-11, while AYZH was the first place winner at the Camino Real Venture Competition, the World Health Care Congress Award and Global Social Venture Competition; though their work is far from done. By the end of 2012, after spending three years focused solely on the clean birth kit, AYZH intends to introduce the Sheba-Water Filter and a New Born Kit-SHISHU. “AYZH is about a commitment beyond just identifying technologies and making them accessible to women,” says Zubaida, “it is a commitment to opening women’s eyes to their own potential and giving them the tools to achieve it.”
Video courtesy of whcccongress: