Friday, June 13, 2014

“Water and sanitation problems have reached boiling point: children are dying unnecessarily at the rate of 20 jumbo jets crashing every single day." — Ravi Narayanan

I wrote about this last February, but some things have changed and the topic is never not important.  Forgive me if you learn nothing from today’s blog, but I think you will.  
Typhoid fever, Dysentery, E. coli Infection, Cholera, Amoebiasis, Giardiasis, Cyclosporiasis, Microsporidiosis—these are the diseases and parasites that are fatal to many children and adults and cause serious illnesses in the gastrointestinal tract.  What they all have in common is that one biosand water filter will remove EVERY single one of them.  There are things the filters cannot do, like remove heavy metals (mercury, lead) or remove salt and other minerals that may make the water taste bad.  However, the list above of parasites and diseases is not complete because there are other non-listed parasites and microorganisms that are also removed.  The day the filter is placed, 60% of the bad things are gone.  After three weeks of building up its own bacteria fighting layer (hence bio-sand filter), 98% of the bad things are gone resulting in water that is 98% pure.  Just two tiny drops of bleach added to twenty liters of water (roughly five gallons) and the water is 100% pure—as pure as the bottled water sold in the stores.  We have already placed over 450 filters in and around our area (Mara and Mwanza regions), and since each filter provides clean, safe water for up to thirty people, well that means that almost 14,000 children and adults no longer have to worry about that horrible list at the top of this blog.  It means the children have better school attendance, it means that mothers can cook for and take care of her family all the time, it means that fathers can work in the farms (shambas) growing the food the family will eat and sell—or not miss days of work at other jobs.  We don’t know how many people’s lives we have saved or how many episodes of sickness we have eliminated.  There is no way of knowing.  I worked on youth suicide prevention for almost forty years in the U.S., and we never knew how many lives we might have saved.  What we did know was that the problem was serious and real and that we simply could not do nothing, so we did the best we could and established hot lines, crisis centers, produced educational videos that were used in thirty states, and along the way created rape crisis lines and other forms of help.  We know dirty water kills and sickens, so we cannot do nothing.  Thanks to an engineer named Jerry Buckingham, we built (actually HE built) the first filter in 2006, and we are still using it for our family to this day.  We hoped that this would take off and Tanzania would be flooded with filters today, but change comes very slowly here.  Still, 14,000 people with clean, safe water is nothing to sneeze at.  And, as I mentioned in the recent long blog about our miracle time here, during the last sixteen months we have had orders for more than 150 filters (50 going to the schools in Nansio last November).  The bigger news is that one group (e3 Partners) came for training in building and teaching about the biosand filters and are now building and placing filters with the Masaai people in Tanzania and Kenya.  Just yesterday, I formalized an agreement with a German missionary to send a mold with a trained builder to the Congo to start building filters there where the rebels routinely ruin the water supplies as a terrorist tactic.  Our little filter building area in the picture at the right is not much, but it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.  We even put a bio-sand filter at the new Anglican vocational school last year which the Australian mission group I mentioned the other day helped to build.  Eight years ago, Jerry Buckingham (one of the nicest men I have ever known) told me that one day these filters were going to be HUGE in impact here.  I thought he meant we would be seeing tens of thousands of them being made all over the country but that hasn't happened (we are still the only source), but he was right, they are HUGE to every child who has not died of cholera, dysentery, or typhoid.  We can only make two filters a day, and we don’t make them every day, yet what Jerry started has become “huge” and we are so very proud to be a small part of it.  Each biosand filter costs just $50 USD and lasts for over fifteen years.  We make no profit on the filters we sell and would love to see some Tanzanian business people take this over and produce them in large numbers, but as I said before, change comes very slowly here.  For now, we are doing what we can, where we are, with what we have.  I believe God is pleased.  If you want to know how you might help, send me an email at revwigg@gmail.com and maybe you can.  There is no such thing as just a little help—whatever you do will be HUGE.
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