Water Purification In Thomassique

Drinking contaminated water is a major cause of disease in Thomassique, especially among the very young (under age 5) and the very old.  Medical Missionaries reviewed research literature about several approaches to dealing with this problem and talked with experts in the field and concluded that the approach that fits best in Thomassique is home-based water purification (rather than community-based purification). 

Early in 2009, we began a study of two home-based water purification systems, solar disinfection (SODIS) and a granulated chlorine system (Klorfasil).  The study was designed to use solid research methodologies.  The results of that study were released late in 2009.  The final study report (PDF) showed that both systems were equally effective in reducing water-borne childhood diseases, each reducing the incidence of diarrhea by half over the time of the study.

The SODIS system required the user to place clear plastic bottles filled with water (from any source) in the sunlight for six or more hours.  The scarcity of plastic bottles in Thomassique proved to be a problem.  Medical Missionaries worked with the people of Thomassique to try various approaches to finding new sources of bottles but was not successful in creating a sustainable supply.

The Klorfasil system was more promising because it was effective and easy to use.  The cost of the system, about $10 for a year’s supply of potable water for a family of six, was more than most families in Thomassique could afford.  Another challenge was that the manufacturer of Klorfasil had, until that time, only distributed the system in Hinche, the provincial capital located about 15 miles west of Thomassique.  He had not planned for broader distribution and did not have a large supply of the system components.

We were fortunate to solve the first challenge through a grant from the Gerard Foundation.  That grant allowed us to distribute Klorfasil systems to 2,500 families in 2010.  A follow-on grant allowed us to distribute the system to an additional 3,500 families in 2011.

Klorfasil water purification system
The second challenge, has proved more daunting.  There is only one manufacturer of the types of (5 gallon) buckets needed for the Klorfasil system.  Production of those buckets has been sporadic.  Furthermore, the demand for the buckets skyrocketed after a major earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.  To this day, we continue to struggle to have a continuous supply of materials.  Our goal is to distribute Klorfasil systems to 15,000 households in Thomassique and its surrounding villages by the end of 2013.

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