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Millions Awarded for Innovations that Save Mothers and Infants

Tom Stoddart/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- About $14 million was awarded to innovations aimed at saving the lives of mothers and children around the world Thursday in a landmark event hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

"Saving Lives at Birth," the first in a series of Grand Challenges for Development led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, brought together doctors, health workers, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to showcase innovations with the potential to prevent maternal and newborn deaths.

Awardees' projects included gadgets and health care delivery models, but all utilized creative, simple and inexpensive techniques designed for the developing world.

Diagnostics for All, a non-profit based in Boston, showcased postage stamp-sized pieces of paper that can detect anemia and hypertensive disorders in pregnant women and babies, life threatening but easily treatable medical conditions. An oxygen blender developed by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) in Seattle doesn't require electricity and targets the millions of preterm infants born each year with immature lungs, making it hard for them to breathe.

A People's Choice award was given to ARMMAN, a tiny non-profit from India with a cellphone-based program that uses voice messages and animations to help women learn about pregnancy and potential complications.

More than 600 applications were received for 25 award nominee spots as part of the "Saving Lives at Birth" challenge.

Despite improvements in health in recent decades, maternal and newborn deaths remain high in many countries where resources, infrastructure and health services are lacking. A woman dies every two minutes in childbirth, and 99 percent of them are in the developing world, according to the World Health Organization. About 1.6 million neonatal deaths occur each year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio