J500 Media and the Environment

I’m Tired of Being Pleasant by mackenzies09

Diarrhea is never a pleasant subject. For those of us with access to clean water supplies and basic medications, it’s usually nothing more than unpleasant. But for the more than 2 million children who will die of diarrhea and related diseases this year, it is much more than unpleasant.

I will never get over the fact that so many children die from something that is so easily preventable and treatable. I want to scream! Why is this happening? The two maps shown below represent the areas of the world with the poorest water sources and the most cases of childhood diarrhea. They look awful similar to me.

Poor Water

Poor Water

Childhood Diarrhea

Childhood Diarrhea

Diarrhea is most often caused by a lack of clean drinking water and poor personal and food hygiene. It can easily be treated with a re-hydration solution with sugar and salt additives. But families must have access to the solution and they must understand how to use it as it can take up to 24 hours of constant use to work.

Breastfeeding can be one of the easiest ways to prevent diarrhea in babies. Unfortunately, companies like Gerber and Nestle have been pushing expensive formula in underdeveloped nations for decades. Mothers often mix contaminated water into the formula making every meal a toxic one for their infants. The viral, bacterial and parasitic causes of diarrhea have now become a major ingredient of baby’s meal.

Systematic waste removal is another solution to the messy situation. Doctors studied the epidemiological effect of a public service project that increased household access to city-run sanitation in Salvador, Brazil. The goal of the project was to increase sewer coverage from 26 percent to 80 percent. After comparing the number of diarrhea incidents in 1997 to those in 2004, it was found that cases were reduced by 22 percent.

Warning: bad pun here: It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot. I do not want to make light of such a serious issue, but now is when we need to put pleasantries aside and do something. There are a lot of ways to get involved.

You can join the Nestle Boycott (they might make more products than you imagine), you can donate to Engineers in Action, or even join Engineers Without Borders-University of Kansas (KU students of all majors are welcome).


maps courtesy of worldmapper.org

5 Comments so far
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It’s unfortunate that big name companies get folks hooked on their products so that people are screwed physically and financially. One cool thing that I’ve seen in the last few years have been these UV pens or sterile pens that you stick in your water for a few minutes and it kills the microbes. I’ve seen it in the context of camping but I think it has great potential to help on a grand scale.

Comment by meganr21

I had never heard of these UV pens. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I found Epicenter Solutions, a non-profit that, among other things, provides Steri-Pens to communities in Malawi and Mozambique. While I couldn’t donate the market price for a pen (they range from $80 to $100) I did make a small donation. So, thanks to you Megan, I feel like I took my own advice!

Comment by mackenzies09

One more thing, although Epicenter Solutions is run by an American church (I’m skeptical of religious missionary work at times) their website claims 100 percent of donations goes to “help provide an orphaned child or an aged person with a safe facility, nutritious food, clean water, a school uniform, education on farming methods, education on HIV/AIDS prevention, and much more”. I’m still looking for a non-religious group that provides Steri-Pens. So I guess once I do, I’ll at least make two donations.

Comment by mackenzies09

I wrote a research paper once on a common water parasite called Cryptosporodium that was a leading cause of diarrhea, and one of the ways scientists were looking at treating water was with UV light treatment. I never followed up with how the UV was being used, but that’s awesome that you guys found a company that does that! I’ll have to check it out and donate myself.

Comment by amandat09

Government of different countries should pay attention in giving their people clean water and teach them proper hygiene so they will know how to avoid getting diarrhea especially children who are susceptible to such health problems.

Comment by diarrhoea

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