Essential Tech Centre
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Humanitarian action

The world today faces more humanitarian crises and people forced to flee their homes than at any time since WWII. Armed conflict, most recently including the war in Ukraine, is a key driver, along with natural or man-made disasters. Conditions for forcibly displaced people and others affected by crisis are further exacerbated by other crises including climate change, the COVID pandemic and other outbreaks.

Our humanitarian action division works with global partners to research and implement initiatives to improve humanitarian responses. We aim to save lives, improve living conditions, protect human rights, restore dignity and help people back to normal lives. We bring solutions through science and technology projects specifically designed for humanitarian contexts, as well as expert guidance and education initiatives.

  • Engineering for Humanitarian Action is a joint initiative among EPFL, ETH Zurich and the ICRC that develops innovative solutions ICRC that develops innovative solutions and approaches for humanitarian action. It focuses on three priority areas, 1) Data and cyber security, 2) Digital health and 3) Energy and the environment. Key actions are centered around research, implementation and education, and include grants for EPFL and ETH Zurich labs to help ICRC meeting challenges in the field, and a MOOC on digital upskilling for the humanitarian sector currently in development with additional participation of Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
  • We are also coordinating EPFL’s role in the Geneva Technical Hub, a partnership between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) with expertise from EPFL, ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG). The initiative aims to reduce the environmental impact of humanitarian action.

A first success stories the humanitarian action division is the Agilis prosthetic limbs, today being used by the ICRC and marketed through an ICRC- created social initiative, Rehab’Impulse. SmartPPE Ebola-safe PPE is currently in field testing with MSF and will be brought to market by SFTech.

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