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A Straw that Prevents Disease and Saves Lives

Creating products to save people's lives in the developing world is the mission of a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The group designs and manufactures devices that prevent diseases like cholera, guinea worm and malaria. One such item is the LifeStraw, a simple device that filters out germs to the point where one can drink contaminated water straight from the source and not get sick.

The company's name is Vestergaard-Frandsen and its chief executive officer is Mikkel Vestergaard-Frandsen. In this third of a five-part series, the Company CEO says the LifeStraw is designed for people living in poverty who have a high death rate from water-borne diseases.

The LifeStraw comes in two forms. One is for personal use and the other for the household. The personal LifeStraw is portable and looks very much like an ordinary straw. It hangs around the neck, and Mikkel Vestergaard-Frandsen says you can drink water from any source without getting sick, "It's really beautiful in its simplicity. It takes 99.999 percent of all bacteria, and it functions, really, as a water treatment plant in a straw."

The CEO says the household version of the straw is for a family of up to six people and lasts more than three years. It's simple to use. It hangs from a wall, you pour dirty water into the top and it filters down through a hollow fiber and comes out clean. The process is quick, and you can drink the water right away; there's no need to store the water for a long period.

Vestergaard Frandsen says both the personal and the family LifeStraw are very effective against diarrheal diseases. "This is a disease that this year alone will cost the lives of 1.8 million children across Africa. It is the deadliest disease among children under five in sub-Saharan Africa today, and one that is utterly preventable and where [the] LifeStraw family will play a huge role," he says.

The LifeStraw passes the standards established by the U-S Environmental Protection Agency for reducing bacteria, viruses and parasites in water.

Vestergaard-Frandsen says the personal LifeStraw has been distributed in several sub-Saharan African countries for about two years now, and efforts to distribute the family version are just getting underway. He says the best way to get one is through a charitable organization. "Charities are the organizations – and the NGOs and the faith-based organizations – [that] take the product out there to the rural households where the poorest people live, where the death rates are the highest and where we can have the biggest health impact."

If you'd like more information on the LifeStraw and other Vestergaard Frandsen products that prevent disease, go to their website at Vestergaard is spelled v-e-s-t-e-r-g-a-a-r-d. And Frandsen is spelled f-r-a-n-d-s-e-n. Once again, the website address is