Saving Lives with the LifeStraw

by Vanessa Merta on March 28, 2014

Children using LifeStraws

Children using LifeStraws

 

Waterborne diarrheal diseases are estimated to cause over 4% of the earths deaths annually (World Health Organization).  Unfortunately, the majority of these deaths are children in developing nations because they do not have access to clean water.  Without interfering to help clean water or develop vaccines, more children in developing nations will continue to die from these treatable diseases.

In some developing countries, the only available water is extremely dirty.  Often, drinking water is also mixed with water used for bathing, laundry, and cleaning. This cross-contamination brings pathogens into the water, many times causing diseases.  One of the most common waterborne diseases today is cholera (UNICEF). Cholera is a diarrheal disease that if goes untreated, can quickly lead to dehydration and death.  This is huge problem in Haiti today, as over 6% of all Haitians have had cholera since the outbreak in 2010 (CIDRAP).  Cholera is spread like many waterborne pathogens; contamination of water sources with the feces of those infected (WHO). Those who are dying from cholera are mostly children because of their lower functioning immune system.  A possible short-term solution for these children, and children all over the world, is the innovative LifeStraw.

LifeStraw was created by the humanitarian company, Vestergaard Frandsen.   Vestergaard Frandsen focuses on reducing childhood mortality, improving maternal health, and combating global health burdens.  Keeping the company’s goals in mind, Vestergaard Frandsen came up with the groundbreaking, LifeStraw.  With LifeStraw, users can drink from contaminated water sources while simultaneously filtering out harmful pathogens.  Laboratory studies have shown that the LifeStraw is successful in removing over 99% of bacteria and parasites, including cholera.  LifeStraw should be seen with great optimism, because a single personal straw can filter over 1000 liters of water. The company has created many different types of the LifeStraw, including a larger one for families and an even larger one for communities.  Vestergaard Frandsen has also made a LifeStraw specifically to filter out Guinea worm larvae, a parasite found in water. Vestergaard Frandsen has tested the efficacy of their product, in a very successful and generous way.  The company provided LifeStraws to 4.5 million households in Kenya, in an effort to reduce diarrheal disease and to reduce the carbon footprint caused from unsuccessful attempts to purify water through boiling (Vestergaard Frandsen). The actions of this European company show that it truly wants to help those suffering from waterborne diseases.

With all the children that are currently suffering from these common diarrheal diseases in developing countries, the UN should be doing all that they can in preventative measures.  Investing in the LifeStraw would be a successful first step. By filtering the pathogens out of the water, there would be fewer cases of diarrheal diseases.  This clean water could also be helpful in rehydrating children who already have diarrheal diseases.  A huge part in treating children with diarrheal diseases is keeping them hydrated, and if you were to attempt to hydrate them with pathogen-filled water, your attempts would be futile.  This is where the LifeStraw comes in.  By using the LifeStraw, I predict the cases of diarrheal disease would be greatly reduced, and therefore there would be less childhood deaths due to this awful condition.

 

References:

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/diseases/burden/en/

http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_wes_related.html

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2013/01/cholera-has-struck-more-6-haitians

http://www.vestergaard.com/our-products/lifestraw


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