to save lives by preventing disease. That's the mission of the Vestergaard-Frandsen company, based in Switzerland. In this first of a five part series we'll talk about these devices, beginning with the pipe filter, which
makes contaminated water safe to drink. The filter prevents guinea worm disease
by cleaning the water and is distributed by the Carter Center in Atlanta. Kelly
Callahan, the center's assistant director of program support, describes it.
"It's like a straw.
plastic tubing that has on the end farthest from the mouth a filter cloth, and
the end closest to the mouth is open so that someone can suck water through the
pipe filter. It has a string, worn around the neck so that it's an individual
water filtering system that can be carried anywhere," she says.
The Carter Center specialist says the
inspiration for the pipe filter came many years ago from a nomadic group in
"There's a group of people called Tuaregs …and
we were distributing filter cloths for household use -- they are nomadic people
and they move with their cattle, camels and goats -- They found that the filter
cloths were not appropriate for them, so they cut the filter cloth in small
pieces and used reeds from water areas. They cut the reeds and dried them and
took the cut pieces of filter cloth, tied it on the end and made their own
Callahan says the pipe filter cloth has been
replaced with a steel mesh providing a more effective and longer lasting
filter. She says the filter has proven to be extremely effective over the
years. As a Carter Center country representative in Southern Sudan in 2001, she
was a witness. "We carried out a massive pipe filter
distribution. We actually produced, with refugees, nine million, two hundred
and eighty-five thousand pipe filters to blanket the entire country of Sudan at
the time…in all areas that were endemic for guinea worm…and that served to
reduce the number of cases dramatically in Sudan.
Callahan says in 1986 there were 20 countries
with cases of guinea worm, but with the use of the pipe filter and other
interventions, that number has dwindled. Now, she says, distribution is focused
on Southern Sudan, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, "Currently, there are only
five countries that have cases of guinea worm disease, two of which have less
than five thousand cases reported in 2008."
If the current trend of eradication
continues, Callahan has reason to believe that guinea worm disease will soon be a thing of the past, "Hopefully,
this year -- we'll be able to stop transmission of guinea worm disease in 2009.
We all have our hopes set on that goal."
If you'd like more
information on the Pipe Filter and other Vestergaard Frandsen products that
prevent disease, go to their website at www.vestergaard-frandsen.com.
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 that website address is www.vestergaard-frandsen.com