Insensible Suffering

by Tamara A.

This fall, Edge of Seven is beginning an amazing partnership with six chapters of Architecture for Humanity on a five-village initiative in Nepal’s Everest region.  Each project differs from the others; however, all five are seeking to accomplish the same goal of making education more accessible to the girls living in these rural communities.  One piece of this is a water and sanitation project to be completed in the small village of Purdu.  While other projects, such as constructing or reconstructing various schools, have obvious implications on how to accomplish our mission, this particular project is a bit more indirect means to get to our ends.

Girls are often responsible for the provision of meals and water for their families and villages.  With these villages being in the mountainous Everest region, there are often long, difficult walks to obtain water from decent sources.  Thus, it requires a lot of their time to accomplish these tasks that people rely on them to complete.  Wouldn’t it be great for them to have a clean water source right in their village?  That’s what we thought.  And that’s what we’re doing.  By supplying Purdu with a clean, sanitary water source, this frees up the girls’ time for other activity which we are hoping will be quality education time.

Another upside of this project for the entire village is the health benefit that come hand-in-hand with a reliable clean water source.  It is remarkable what diseases can be eliminated or at least significantly decreased with a steady water supply.  Take for example Haiti. 

Haiti has been a huge ball of confusion since the earthquake struck the tiny island over a year and a half ago.  Hundreds of thousands of citizens have been displaced.  The government has failed to effectively reorganize and make any major improvements to the situation.  United Nations and other humanitarian groups are running out of money and workers to continue their work in the country.  The economy is in shambles still with little ability to support itself.  And on top of all of this, the cholera epidemic that first showed its face about a year ago is still running rampant. 

This epic spread of cholera supposedly began when the Artibonite River was contaminated due to a sewage leakage from a humanitarian campsite.  Since the contamination, over 6,000 people have died and over 420,000 people have become sick from cholera alone.  In July, Haiti’s most vulnerable region saw a cholera morality rate of 5.3%

 There is no reason for this.

For those who have already contracted the disease, cholera is completely treatable.  There already exists an inexpensive vaccination.  Currently, there are fewer than 400,000 doses of the vaccine globally.  However, it would supposedly be simple to increase the production of it.  And for the value that it would provide worldwide, I say let’s do it.

More importantly, prevention is simple: clean water and sanitation systems.  The reason for cholera spreading like wildfire across Haiti is mostly due to the fact that their systems are either incredibly insufficient or completely lacking from certain areas.  By adding these to the rural regions, that absurdly high cholera mortality rate could be dropped to below 1%. 

Clearly, something can be done about this and it seems that water and sanitation systems should be top priority on the “to do” list. 

Who knows? …maybe a parternship similar to that which Edge of Seven is currently entering into will pop up in the future and take on the epidemic in rural Haitian villages.

Information taken from the New York Times article “Haiti’s Needless Cholera Deaths” from the September 7th, 2011 issue.

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