As part of Handle With Care Internationalâs commitment to sustainable health solutions for impoverished communities, in August 2011, we took water samples from one particular community to discover how contaminated (if at all) the water was that they were using in their cooking, cleaning and every day life. While we were expecting to see some contaminants â what we found shocked us.
Within 36 hours of taking samples, our petri dishes were full of colonies of E.coli and other nasties that would be enough to make you severely sick. To our shock, the worst offender, was actually from a stream that ran through the village; that particular plate had too many colonies to count.
E.coli, or Escherichia coli if youâre fancy, in western worlds, is one of the main producers of food poisoning in people and is transferred generally through fecal-oral transmission. Grossed out yet?
But thatâs okay.. you wash your hands well after going to the toilet, right? Wrong. There have been findings to indicate that E.coli also runs rampant in beach sand as LiveScience reported, and has been found in ground beef, unpasteurized juice or milk, alfalfa sprouts and in human to human contact from places like day-care centres (not all children wash their hands, apparently) (source: InfoPlease)
So imagine having to drink water that was full of fecal contamination â boiled or not, would you be prepared to drink it? Thatâs what this community, and many others, have to deal with daily. If the water isnât boiled properly, or if your child is playing in the river and puts their hand in their mouth â they could very much develop gastrointestinal issues â which at the very least, may dehydrate the child, requiring the consumption of even more water.
Communities are forced to purchase fuel, such as kerosene for their stove (which is another issue when it comes to poor ventilation and health) or purchased bottled water.
Handle With Care International have distributed LifeStraw Family Filters as part of our initial work in these communities.
This allows a family of five to pour their contaminated well-water into the filter and then drink immediately what comes out the blue tap at the bottom of the filter â bacteria and virus-free. These filters have no replacement parts required, and will last up to three years. Allowing the families to cook and drink clean water, and save their money or risk their health, by having to treat their water.
While this in itself is not sustainable, it is a great start while we and the communities try to work out a long-term, sustainable plan for clean, drinking water.
If E.coli and other nasties like Salmonella are less-likely to be in the impoverished equation, then these communities are already off to a healthy start â through clean water.
At the time of publishing, LifeStraw Family Filters cost approximately $38 each.