World Water Week just ended and, this year, Mother Nature is proving to be one of the most powerful obstacles to clean water. This year, two natural disasters have resulted in two human tragedies a half a world apart. The origin of one disaster was in the ground; the other in the sky. But the distressing toll taken on the people of both Haiti and Pakistan is much the same in terms of lives lost, suffering, economic losses, injuries, and the threat of subsequent diseases.
The earthquake that devastated Haiti in January claimed the lives of nearly a quarter of a million people and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, more than2,000 people lost their lives in the Pakistani floods this summer while an estimated 21 million were injured or left homeless according to the United Nations. Unfortunately, nature’s second act is proving to be just as cruel.
According to a report from International Action, typhoid fever has invaded Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, the United Nations Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Cluster Coordinator warned thatHaiti could be home to the biggest diarrhea outbreak in two decades. Waterborne diseases are often the silent killers that follow in the wake of a natural disaster.
Thankfully, groups like International Action are helping the Haitians fight back. With the help of private donations from organizations like the Chlorine Chemistry Foundation, International Action is working aggressively to head off the threat of waterborne diseases in Haiti.
Already, they are implementing a pilot program with the United Nations Development Program in Jacmel that will include 51 chlorinator sites. They are pursuing partnerships to install chlorinators in BRAC Haiti’s schools. They continue to offer chlorinators, an initial batch of chlorine, deworming pills, and tanks to any organization in need.
International Action is making a difference. Since July, they have reached an additional 20,000 people with clean water. It has been eight months since Haiti was brought to its collective knees, butgroups like International Action are helping to get the country back on its feet. If you would like to learn more about this project or join the fight against waterborne diseases in Haiti, please visit International Action’s website.
In Pakistan, World Vision is bringing relief to those in need. This organization reported that the “need is greater than available resources. The main water sources in the area are dug wells, hand pumps, and a few tube wells. However, wells have become contaminated by the flood and their water is no longer safe to drink.” The organization also fears “that the death toll will rise as continuing rains increase the threat of more flooding and the spread of waterborne diseases such as dysentery and cholera begins.”
World Vision has raised millions to help bring relief to Pakistan. In addition, Proctor and Gamble and its partners have committed to providing over 13.2 million gallons of clean drinking water, soap, laundry detergent, and hygiene products. P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program is helping people in Pakistan and around the world get access to safe and clean drinking water with its chlorine-based products. The Chlorine Chemistry Foundation also pledged $20,000 to the relief efforts. If you are interested in donating to the relief efforts, please visit World Vision’swebsite.
World Water Week arrived as two disasters half a world apart once again highlight the importance of safe drinking water. A safe and clean water supply is the most basic of necessities and is the foundation for a long and productive healthy life. We may not be able to control Mother Nature, but our collective response to natural disasters can have a meaningful impact on those who are trying to cope in her wake.
For more information about the safety benefits of chlorinated water, please visit our website.
(Fred Reiff, P.E., is a former official of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization and a member of the Water Quality & Health Council.)