Under a new student-led nonprofit aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality in South Asia, expectant mothers would receive a free box full of newborn essentials like baby clothes, diapers, and wipes, as well as health-related items such as a clean delivery kit and oral rehydration salts. The caveat: Women would only get the box—which doubles as a portable basket in which babies can sleep or play—if they agree to a prenatal checkup.
The “Barakat Bundle” project (“Barakat” means “blessing” in several languages), based on a similar box developed in Finland decades earlier, has had an award-winning start. In April, Barakat Bundle took home the $25,000 prize for runner-up in the social enterprise track at the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition, and was also chosen crowd favorite. Barakat Bundle is also a 2015 finalist at MassChallenge, one of the world’s largest accelerator programs for startups.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health doctoral student Karima Ladhani, S.M. ’13, developed the project last spring in Harvard Chan Professor Gordon Bloom’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab for US & Global Health course. Distributed at first only to those with financial need, the box is now offered to all expectant mothers and is credited with helping reduce infant mortality in Finland from 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1938 to 2 deaths per 1,000 in 2013.