News

New Product Cleans Dirty Water In Minutes

The World Health Organization says more than 3.4 million people die every year from poor water and sanitary conditions. More than 250 million people suffer from diseases caused by dirty water every year, and 6,000 children die every day from diseases caused by contaminated water. No country in the Western Hemisphere suffers more from problems caused by contaminated water than Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere. But that could change soon, with the introduction of a new product that cleans contaminated water in just minutes.

The waiting room at the Carrefour maternity hospital is always crowded. It is a good place to find an audience receptive to a song extolling the benefits of clean drinking water.

The woman leading the sing-along at the Carrefour hospital is Amelia Shaw, a specialist on mother and child health, who also works as a journalist for international news agencies in Haiti. She is introducing a new product called PuR, or purifier of water, to those who have come to the hospital seeking help. Many of those at the hospital are bringing small children suffering from diarrhea and Amelia Shaw says the new product could save their lives.

"It is a powder that essentially purifies water," said Amelia Shaw. "It will take the dirtiest water you have ever seen and after about 25 minutes make it potable [drinkable]. It will make it potable and absolutely clear. It kills all pesticides, all microbes, everything organic from viruses to bacteria to worms. It eliminates all poisons, heavy metals, and other dangerous contaminants in water."

Supporters of such point-of-use water treatments, as they are known, have shown reductions of 30 to 50 percent in diarrheal disease, with even higher reductions during water-borne epidemics.

Diarrhea is the leading cause of death among Haitian children less than one-year old, and the second leading killer among children between the ages of one to five. A recent study found that one out of every 13 Haitian children die before they reach their first birthday and one out of 24 that survive the first year die before the age of five.

Population Services International which markets health care products in developing countries around the world on a non-profit basis, has just introduced PuR to Haiti. The product which was developed by the U.S.-based company, Proctor and Gamble has been introduced with positive results in other countries like Guatemala, The Philippines and Bangladesh, where tests show PuR substantially reduced arsenic levels in tube-well water, a major health problem for Bangladeshi's. The widespread introduction of PuR is also expected to have a positive impact on expanding oral rehydration therapy, which is used to combat diarrheal disease.

The PuR powder which comes in a small sachet, or packet, and which is sold for about eight U.S. cents, got its first test in Haiti last September when floods killed several thousand people in the Haitian city of Gonaives. Amelia Shaw says a decision was made to distribute PuR in Gonaives, even though the product was not designed for emergency use.

"This is a product that is not necessarily designed for a relief situation because you have to be able to effectively show people how to use it," she said. "So it was a big challenge in Gonaives. People in Gonaives had water everywhere. It was dirty water and it was really posing a big problem. A product like PuR, if people know what it is, and they know how to use it, can save thousands of lives. I know we did a lot of good. We had teams on the ground and we were able to work with other relief organizations in the area."

Amelia Shaw says there are four steps to preparing PuR. The powder must be stirred for five minutes until waste material in the water clumps together or coagulates. Then the clumped material must be allowed to sink to the bottom of a bucket or container. Then, the water must be filtered into another container, and then, allowed to sit for 15 minutes. If these steps are not followed correctly PuR will not work, so Amelia Shaw and her team constantly visit hospitals and clinics, where through songs and skits they show people how to use PuR, a product which she says could save many lives in coming years.

Dr. Dauphin Jean-Philippe of the Carrefour maternity hospital says he is amazed that a very simple product could have such a potential positive impact.

The Haitian doctor says he expects PuR to have a dramatic impact on people's lives because it will change the way water is used in Haiti, where only 10 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water in their homes.

Nearly two thirds of Haitians get their water either from public water fountains, which are difficult to keep clean, or from non-protected sources such as rivers and streams that are heavily polluted. Getting clean drinking water from a small package of powder, which sells for pennies, could save millions of lives now lost to contaminated water.

Photos - courtesy of PSI

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs