Saving lives in a very simple way

Zepha Mukalere came all the way from Kampala, Uganda to Red Deer to thank the Downtown Rotary Club for supporting the Water School program in his homeland.

He’s the CEO of the program in Uganda, which provides simple, safe and sustainable solutions for clean water and sanitation in Kenya and Haiti, as well as Uganda.

It’s all based on very simple, yet scientifically proven water treatment technology. It involves filling plastic bottles with contaminated water and placing them in the sun for a day or two days if it’s overcast. Tests show most of the bacteria is killed in the first hour.

“Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays which can kill viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms,” says Mukalere. “By exposing clear water not more than three inches deep to the sun the ultraviolet rays kill the pathogens and provide safe drinking water. We teach people in a school setting, we give children the bottles, which they use at school and then they take them home. In Kisoro (a district in Uganda) alone we are reaching 14,000 families, and when you talk of families you are talking about six or seven people each. Country-wide it involves 25,000 families and it’s growing.”

Several members of the Downtown Rotary Club, which was an early financial supporter of the program, visited Uganda to see the project first hand. Mukalere was in Red Deer to speak to the Rotary on Monday and thank them for their support.

The results of that support, says Mukalere, in the communities where the program started, are phenomenal. “And now it’s spreading to other areas, it just multiplies on its own, because people see how well it works and the good results in their lives, and they tell their neighbours what to do: drink clean water, wash their hands, have clean homes.

“You get rid of a lot of problems just by doing that. You (the Downtown Rotary Club) have made this happen. You have changed people’s lives and started a fire that cannot be stopped.”

The Water School was founded in 2007 by water scientist Bob Dell and Fraser Edwards, an international development professional. It’s worked incredibly well for people in rural areas of developing countries that get their drinking water mostly from surface sources like ponds, rivers and lakes.

Those same water sources are often used by cattle and other livestock, as well as for bathing, washing clothes and other domestic needs. Even water from improved sources is often contaminated and when combined with limited awareness of proper sanitation and hygiene techniques, something as simple as washing your hands after going to the bathroom, the death and disease rates are staggering.

Around the world The Water School estimates 1.3 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion live without basic sanitation.

Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases because they lack safe drinking water and decent sanitation facilities. An estimated four billion cases of diarrhoea cause missed school and work opportunities. However, as The Water School is showing, simple solutions can help a lot.