Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
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A deceased person’s body holds strong symbolism in various cultures in relation to funerary customs, as it is used as a direct representation of the deceased individual. Its absence, such as in disaster scenarios, may cause legal and sociocultural burdens. This absence also creates uncertainty for individuals regarding the life status of their absent close one. The identification of bodies in forensic cases is considered extremely important in providing closure. Body bags play a vital role in early stages of disaster victim identification as they are a tool that allow for storage, isolation and transportation of the body of a deceased person.


The new design remained affordable and functional even when no dedicated forensics infrastructure is present. Its primary goal was to delay decomposition and improve visual identification by influencing three key variables. Firstly, the better body bag can hold a vacuum. The mechanism that is used limits the body from interacting with an exterior environment, including oxygen, restricting aerobic bacterial proliferation or insects. This vacuum is easily created with the help of a standard hand pump that does not require electrical infrastructure. Secondly, it controls the temperature inside the bag by having an outer light deflecting layer. Thirdly, it controls bodily fluids associated with decomposition by using a super-absorber pad, preventing any leaking in the rare event of puncture. Additionally, it aimed to improve the working conditions of humanitarian actors that manage the dead after catastrophes or armed conflicts. The bag has a closing mechanism that provides a hermetic seal and a barrier to gases, odours and organisms that can emanate from inside the bag.


Preliminary biological and load testing undertaken by the Forensic Department of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who have been financially supportive and to whom the first hundred prototype bags were provided, demonstrate that the bag successfully held a vacuum and slowed decomposition. Peer-reviewed research in association with the Taphonomic Research in Anthropology: Centre for Experimental Studies of the University of Central Lancashire, verified results and explored the full potential of the better body bag, is underway. The taphonomic research focused on molecular as well as whole body preservation in the new body bags using three time interval points in two separate locations with differing temperature points. Finally, the first 10,000 bags deployed in the field were specifically monitored by ICRC. Regular feedback and improvement circles ensured optimal performance and usability in the real deployment conditions.

Latest Updates

Reflecting on our Better Body Bag Journey with the HIF

19 Mar 2020

As our Humanitarian Innovation Fund grant comes to an end, it is time now to wrap up the project and show our evolution over the last two amazing years. We reflect on our journey from the idea of a better body bag into a minimum viable product, tested in the field and now ready to scale.


The ICRC and the Better Body Bag - A partner’s perspective

30 Aug 2019

As we reach the end of our R&D stage, we take a look at the Better Body Bag project from our partner’s angle. What were their motivations, responsibilities and where they see humanitarian innovation going.


Making the First Hundred Better Body Bag Prototypes: Production

09 Nov 2018

The previous update detailed the organisation phase required prior to the manufacturing the first hundred prototypes of the Better Body Bag. This update will detail the production aspect of building a prototype, including the brainstorm-based action reigning throughout the process.


Making the First Hundred Better Body Bag Prototypes: Preparation

31 May 2018

This update will detail the organisation phase required prior to the practical component of production of the Better Body Bag prototype.


The Better Body Bag and How It All Started

06 Mar 2018

It all started at a hackathon organised by THE Port at CERN’s IdeaSquare in 2014. The event combined technology and science to develop solutions to pressing humanitarian challenges, and it was here that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) challenged participants to improve the current body bag design.


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