The United States this year marks the 100th anniversary of using chlorine to purify drinking water. In 1908 Jersey City in the eastern state of New Jersey became the first U.S. city to use chlorine in drinking water. In celebration of this centennial anniversary, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have teamed up to help provide safe drinking water to three West African countries – Ghana, Mali and Niger.
The World Health Organization says one point one billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water and that diarrhea, a disease caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation kills nearly two million people each year, mostly children under the age of five.
Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Chemical Council (ACC), said the goal of the program is to provide chlorine-based household disinfection to nearly three million people in Ghana, Mali and Niger.
“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of drinking chlorination in the United States, we want to help others around the world to gain a sustainable lifestyle likewise through the use of clean water. So ACC is pleased to announce a new partnership with USAID and others to implement households drinking water program in Ghana, Mali and Niger. ACC is tonight committing an additional $200,000 toward the $1.3 million partnership, which is aimed at improving the quality of life to over three million people over the next two years,” Gerard said.
Jim Kunder, acting deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), explained how chlorination would work in rural West Africa where people do not have access to pipe-borne water.
“Where you don’t have piped water system, we’ve got to rely for safe drinking water on chlorination right at the household level. And what has happened is these American chemical companies have developed very low cost family doses of chlorine, which can be added to the family water for a day or couple of days to make sure that the water is safe and avoid diseases,” he said
Kunder said the new chlorination project for Ghana, Mali and Niger could begin to have an impact within six months.
“We are already working in 11 countries in West Africa, and so we’re adding three new countries to the list in this particular water project. I would expect that within six months we will see some parts of this product taking effect in Mali, Niger and Ghana,” Kunder said.
Martha Pobee of the Ghana Embassy here in Washington expressed appreciation for her country. She said access to safe drinking water would help Ghana to further attain sustainable development.
“Mothers are going to have healthier children that would make them the time to earn more money to make them economically viable. So I believe that this is something that is going to propel us into a different kind of society at the community and rural levels. And we really welcome the initiative, and we thank them for thinking about us,” Pobee said.
Kunder said USAID and some of its partner organizations are working with the governments of Ghana, Mali and Niger to help change the habits of rural people and increase acceptance of the water purification products at the household level.