Maternal & Newborn Health


Ubenwa Health

Analyzing infants' cry sounds using machine learning to detect early signs of birth asphyxia.

Team Lead

Charles Onu

Solution Pitch

The Problem

Birth asphyxia is one of the top 3 causes of newborn mortality in the world, responsible for the disability and death of up to 2 million newborns every year. Developing countries carry most of this disease burden. Early diagnosis of birth asphyxia is critical for survival and reducing brain injury, but expensive equipment and specialized personnel are scarce in low-resource settings. 

The Solution

Ubenwa is a smartphone app that analyzes a baby’s cry to make a quick, reliable, and non-invasive diagnosis of birth asphyxia. At the core of Ubenwa are two machine-learning-based detection algorithms: first, a cry detection algorithm to identify a newborn’s cry from other sounds; second, an asphyxia detection algorithm to identify the distinguishing characteristics between cries of healthy and asphyxiated babies. 

The app allows rapid detection of birth asphyxia in 3 simple steps, which augment rather than replace existing protocols. Within the first 6 hours of life, the birth attendant first records the newborn crying; the app then detects and isolates the cry sounds; and finally the app provides the risk of birth asphyxia.


Ubenwa has the potential to save the lives of up to 2 million newborns every year.

Market Opportunity

Presently, diagnosis of birth asphyxia requires a $20k blood gas analyzer and a single-use cartridge of $600 for each test. Ubenwa’s solution will drive down the capital cost to only a few hundred dollars, while keeping per-use cost as low as $10, making it affordable to almost any birthing center in developing countries. The medical device market in Africa was valued at $5 billion in 2018 and is projected to increase to $7 billion by 2023. The global medical device market is currently at $457 billion with healthcare IT alone valued at $13 billion. 

Organization Highlights

  • WHO Top 30 Africa Health Innovations 2019

  • Spoke at the United Nations AI for Good Global Summit 2019 and the the UBX Digital Opportunities Conference 2019

  • Alumnus of Creative Destruction Lab 2019/2020

  • Featured in Le Monde, Quartz Africa, BBC Radio, Quebec Science, and more

Partnership Goals

Ubenwa currently seeks:

  • Regulatory partners with experience in medical device approval with FDA and Health Canada.

  • Advice on distribution of medical technology in developing countries, ideally from an NGO or fellow entrepreneur with recent experience.

Solver Team

Organization Type:

Montreal, Canada


Working in:
North America and Africa



Solution Team:

  • Samantha Latremouille Clinical Lead, Ubenwa Health
  • Charles Onu AI Research Lead, Ubenwa Health
  • Innocent Udeogu Software Engineering Lead, Ubenwa Health

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