Closed call for applications

Health, Nutrition and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support 2023

Applications reviewed on a rolling basis
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Review status
  • EOI Applications Under Review
  • RFP Applications Under Review
  • Investees Announced
Call details

The UNICEF Venture Fund is looking to invest in Open Source frontier technology solutions that have the potential to create radical change in children’s health, nutrition, and mental health. We are offering up to US$100K in equity-free funding for early stage, for-profit technology start-ups that can improve the lives of children. If your company is leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data science (DS), drones, blockchain, or extended reality (XR), we want to hear from you! We are specifically seeking companies registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries that have impressive working prototypes and a commitment to Open Source licensing.

Female and youth-led/founded startups are encouraged to apply! If you’re ready to make a global impact, reach out!  

Application Deadline: 20 October 2023

The challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on global health, nutrition and mental health indicators for children. It has also amplified the persistent inequities in access to quality healthcare, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Factors such as where a child is born, their gender and their household’s socio-economic status greatly influence their survival and overall wellbeing. Challenges like distance, cost, trust and lack of medical supplies or trained personnel also make it difficult to access quality care.  As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s crucial to enhance the skills and capacity of frontline workers, especially in fragile contexts and vulnerable populations to strengthen health (including immunization), nutrition and mental health.

  • Every child, regardless of their abilities, socioeconomic status, or circumstances deserves the care and support necessary for their growth and wellbeing. However, millions of children do not have access to essential health services, particularly in regions where health systems are not adequately equipped. Shockingly, one out of every five children in low- and middle-income countries remain vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases, with a disproportionate number coming from the poorest and most marginalized communities.
  • Nutrition-related non-communicable diseases account for nearly half of all deaths and disability in low- and middle-income countries. The triple burden of malnutrition also remains unsolved. For example, childhood overweight and obesity now co-exist with other forms of malnutrition and disproportionately affect those whose households have lower socio-economic statuses worldwide. As a result, health systems are overburdened from entirely preventable diseases and families encounter further economic strain as a result of poor health.
  • Finally, the pandemic has highlighted the need for better access to mental health services. Today, it is estimated that 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental health conditions, and 1 in 4 children have a parent with a mental illness. Factors such as poverty, violence and crises further jeopardize children's well-being, and persistent stigma and discrimination exacerbate suffering. Globally, suicide is among the leading causes of death for adolescents. Urgent action to increase investment, improve access, and foster compassionate societies is needed.

Despite these challenges, the pandemic has also opened up opportunities for innovation in health, nutrition and mental health programmes using digital solutions. Though the Venture Fund is actively seeking to invest in digital solutions as they have enormous potential, we encourage applicants to consider how these same tools may also increase children’s exposure to online risks and harms. For UNICEF, it is crucial to ensure child online safety given that digital technologies are becoming increasingly integrated in young peoples’ lives.

What we're looking for

Area 1: How might we improve equity and access to services for health, nutrition, mental health and psychosocial support for children and their families??

  • New ways to facilitate social and behavior change that increase both demand and supply of services. Emphasis on appropriate services for persons with disabilities encouraged.
  • Strengthening existing solutions to personalize services (i.e., using human-centered design) that address diverse needs, including for persons with disabilities.
  • Advanced analytics tools for health workers to monitor, assess and assist in decision making for needs and coverage for local service planning and delivery.
  • Tools which identify and follow-up missed and underserved children, especially those that improve the understanding of the profile or characteristics of low service utilization.

Area 2: How might we improve data generation and analysis for health, nutrition, mental health and psychosocial support for children and their families?

  • Models or alternative data sources to improve representation, accuracy and completeness of existing data for health, mental health and/or nutrition.
  • Secure data management platforms and tools to improve data collection, access and sharing with a focus on decreasing data bias.
  • Exploring non-traditional platforms for collecting new health and nutrition data, such as data on malnutrition (including wasting, stunting, underweight, and obesity); or preventive analysis data from social trends.
  • Digital tools to monitor the food environment and/or leverage alternative sources of data such as citizen-sourced data to understand health behavioral insights, such as food availability and consumption patterns.
  • Predictive analysis to understand changes in the world such as new patterns, risk factors, behavior insights or other contributors to pathologies and adverse outcomes, or diagnostic protocols and models.

Area 3: How might we strengthen workforce capacity, especially in fragile contexts and vulnerable populations for improving health, nutrition, mental health and psychosocial support?

  • Upskilling frontline health workers for maternal, child and adolescent health.
  • Offering specialized training and resources for youth engagement and advocacy such as extended reality tools for skilling.
  • Augmenting workforce capacity in cultural competence, unconscious biases, and social determinants for health, nutrition and mental health.
  • Building workforce capacity to deliver disability- and age-appropriate mental health and psychosocial support services.

We are not limited to the funding options mentioned. We are actively seeking companies that push the boundaries with frontier technologies in innovative and scalable ways with global relevance.

If you think you meet the UNICEF Venture Fund criteria, we want to hear from you!


UNICEF’s Venture Fund has been specifically designed to finance early stage, Open Source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Venture Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology so that UNICEF can both shape markets and learn about and guide these technologies for children. We invest in solutions clustered around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces such as blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

The Venture Fund is particularly seeking solutions that:     

  • Address challenges to accelerate results for children.  
  • Are optimized for low-resource environments (e.g., low connectivity, limited mobile access).  
  • Focus on reducing, rather than widening, inequalities.  
  • Are able to deliver in multiple languages, including smaller languages. 

At UNICEF, we prioritize solutions that not only leverage advanced technologies but also uphold strict data protection measures and safeguarding principles to prioritize individuals’ privacy and wellbeing. Additionally, we value a comprehensive approach that strengthens systems and services, recognizing the importance of building resilient and sustainable infrastructure to effectively support health and mental health initiatives, to achieve lasting positive outcomes in the long run.


  • For any questions regarding the application process, please write to us here 

***The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines living with a disability as having a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment that – in interaction with the environment – hinders one’s participation in society on an equal basis with others. 


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