My partner, Moshe Moalem and I came to the issue of clean water for third world countries from different perspectives but with the same motivation: to ensure that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic standing or geographical remoteness, has access to clean drinkable water. In this day and age when technology has opened so many doors and raised the quality of life for so many of us, it should be unthinkable that anyone could lack so fundamental a staple. And yet, for 1 out of every 8 people on our planet that is the reality.
For the last 30 years, Moshe has been active in bringing educational resources to Nigeria. While there is a “free” government supported educational system in Nigeria, the reality is that there is no financial ability to execute the needed educational programs…especially in science and technology. Moshe introduced the Skill G program to Nigeria and its ‘labless labs’ that are designed to teach low-cost science and technology education in a non-traditional environment. The project, as well as several others that he initiated have all been met with great success and even garnered praise from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
As a result of his work in Nigeria, Moshe became all too aware of the problems associated with water borne illness that results from drinking tainted water. He watched first-hand s family after family was impacted on some level by the lack of access to clean safe drinking water. It got to the point that there was not one family that hadn’t been touched by loss because of the problem. It was then that Moshe decided to become part of the solution.
As for me, about 12 years ago I was traveling through Mexico City enjoying the sights and trying to soak in the local culture. I had never been there before and didn’t know what to expect. One of the sights that struck me particularly hard was the epidemic of people stretched out in the streets in the obvious throes of terrible disease.
When I asked several of my travel mates what exactly was the cause of this epidemic they told me that it was ‘water sickness’ and that it was a common occurrence throughout the country. Later on I learned the fundamental cause of this disease which shocked me almost as much as the sight of its victims: a lack of access to clean water.
As I said before, 1 out of every 8 human beings around the globe don’t have access to clean water.That is a sobering fact.
A few other hard – and sobering - facts from the World Health Organization:
Of the 1 Billion people that lack access to clean water, 3.5 million will die this year from a water-related disease
1.5 million of those deaths will be among children under the age of five.
98% of all those deaths will occur in the developing third world.
At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. A major contributing factor is that 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged into rivers, lakes and coastal areas without first being treated. And the problem generally perpetuates itself.
A community water crisis leaves a far greater impact on the community than just the absence of clean, usable water which, of course, is devastating in and of itself. Women and children are forced to spend hours every day in the pursuit of that basic need with little room for anything else. Children are neglected, things like studying and personal development are thrown by the wayside and basic notions of human kindness are forgotten. In fact, the health of the entire community is put at risk when a staple as basic as clean water is removed from the picture.
What’s even worse is that in many of these third-world countries water, like other natural resources, is viewed as a strategic commodity that can be horded and traded for political significance. As one might expect of third world regimes, the ability to control the available water supply is used as leverage to keep the people in check.
Of course there are a host of international organizations dedicated to helping provide solutions for access to safe drinking water and the work they do saves countless lives. But according to Water.org over 50% of water projects worldwide fail. Less than 5% of the projects are ever revisited and less than 1% of completed water projects are ever monitored for any length of time so that if they break down at any given point they are rarely reinstated.
That’s where the brilliantly engineered Water Elephant comes in. The idea is simple and at the same time completely effective. We use ultraviolet waves commonly found in florecent lighting to kill bacteria and other impurities by means of a hand operated UV water purification system for home use.
The LED bulb that emits the UV wavelength is generated by means of a hand crank that eliminates the need for chemicals, electricity, running water, filters or other expensive items. The system is a portable and can be used both at home before consuming collected or stored water while, at the same time, being economical, long lasting and maintenance-free.
We have already begun to get our life-saving water systems into the hands of those who will most benefit. As you might imagine, every day provides newer and greater challenges. But in the end every day also brings us a bit closer to solving the problem.