//raising the voices of change

Ashley Judd, Day Four — water purification

Today I also saw an overview of our point of use water purification outreach. 60% of rural and 40% of urban Rwandais do not have access to safe water. Even the 2.5% with piped water cannot know if that water is safe.

Unsafe water makes millions sick, which additionally adds to loss of productivity, inability to procure food, care for children, the children miss school, maternal mortality issues arise, adding to orphan crises, and ultimately it is a killer of all. Death by diarrhoea, can you imagine?

In the last 2 weeks, 14% of all children under 5 have had diarrhoeal disease, regardless of source of water or when they are in the country. (In some of the 65 countries where we have programs, we are doing de-worming. Icky to talk about it, but worse to die of, no?)

Sur Eau comes in a small plastic bottle and one capful makes 20 liters (over 5 gallons) of water safe. A bottle provides safe water for a family of 6 for one month for a total cost of 55 cents!

The UN clearly states that disinfection of water at the point of use is consistently the most cost-effective intervention. Sur Eau helps poor people obtain safe water, even if their infrastructure is improving; my local church is financing the digging of a well in the Sudan, and Sur Eau purifies water as some communities wait for such improvements. Additionally, Sur Eau makes sure the stored water remains safe.

The BCC and education that accompanies this campaign is 3 parts: hygiene, sanitation, and water. Hand washing behaviors. Correct latrine behaviors. And point of use purification, whether water is obtained from lakes, rivers, dams, rainwater, creeks, wells, or taps. It’s a big deal. Again, we have packaged this product with pictures and local dialect instructions. They clearly show the links between daily life activities, contamination, and sickness.

It is a lightly chlorinated product, and this neatly sidesteps an array of issues. When water is filled in a jug or jerry can, which is time intensive/labor intensive/often obtained from far away/if bought something only affordable periodically, storage of the precious water ultimately leads to it being contaminated, even if it happened to be safe to begin with. A dirty hand…a dirty utensil….insects…..whatever. Sur Eau is perhaps the most cost-effective life saving product on the planet. The prevention of morbidity and mortality is almost incalculable — oh, but we’ll try, as we measure lives saved as the private sector measures profits, which is why our donors love us! We can show you our results in black and white. It is produced by a private sector partner locally and per bottle revenues recover the cost of production. In a word, sustainable.

We make Sur Eau available via an integrated distribution network: health facilities, mutuelles (health insurance) community health workers (you’ll meet them on world malaria day), private sector pharmacies. We also distribute it for free as an emergency response. Cholera breaks out often here due to erosion into water ways, which leads us back to where we began: overpopulation and stress on the environment. Poverty reduction must be a balanced approached, we all have something to contribute, the environmentalists, the human rights activities, aid groups, public health agencies.

One last note for now about Sur Eau is the government of Rwanda has banned plastic bags. How fabulous is that? If you have them upon arrival, you are politely asked to give them up and they’ll sell you a replacement for cheap. Rwanda and San Francisco, what fantastically unlikely company!!! We need to figure something out with Sur Eau bottles and how Tazanet is packaged, even though school kids use the net’s bag as their tote for school books, and that generally, everyone is so poor a little plastic bottle, even empty, is a treasure. (Whenever I think of poor people and plastic, I think of what happened in Appalachia when plastic jugs of milk came out, our creeks were full of them.) Staci says we are striving to create re fill “centers” where folks can easily bring their bottles to a nearby village for a re fill. “Progress, not perfection.”

ALL CHAPTERS:
Day one — arrival
Day two — genocide memorial
Day three — the countryside
Day three — the PSI.org offices
Day three — malaria nets
Day four — you go, global girl
Day four — water purification
Day five — world malaria day
Day six — Women for Women International
Day six — Democratic Republic of Congo
Day six — heal Africa
Day seven — Sonrise
Day seven — Dushishoze
Day seven — reflections