Would you give your child dirty water to drink?

…Juan wouldn’t either. Here’s his story:

Walter Acevedo CAPS Leaders with new chlorinator

Walter Acevedo CAPS Leaders with new chlorinator

In Februrary 2014, Self-Help’s Clean Water Program Officer made the trek to Walter Acevedo, a town of 2,500 people that is hidden away behind masses of lush forest life, only accessible by an extensive stretch of muddy, rocky road. Orlando was there to meet with CAPS (Comité de Agua Potable y Saneamiento — Clean Water & Sanitation Committee) leaders and present the benefits of water purification via chlorination with the CTI-8 system. CAPS president Roberto Martínez Aguirre told him that the town had begun chlorinating their water over a year previously, but the system had broken down, so they needed help to find a system that was more appropriate for their community. Last summer, student intern Mack Thompson visited Walter Acevedo to check in on how things were going 16 months later.

Roberto began by explaining the context when he met Orlando, saying, “We purchased our first system, an electric chlorinator, for USD $400 but it stopped working correctly after 7 or 8 months.” Roberto and fellow CAPS members Juan García and Francisco Orozco explain they decided to install the CTI-8 because of the simplicity of the system, its effectiveness, and the minimal maintenance. Francisco states, “We went door to door, telling people the old chlorinator had broken, handing out the brochures for the CTI-8 and asking them to help with the purchase of a new system… People were more than ready to pay when they found out it functioned by gravity, rather than electricity.” Standing by the town’s water storage tank, he gestures towards the new chlorinator, “We’ve had the CTI-8 for nearly a year and a half now, and it cost much less than the first system [USD $130], plus we don’t have to pay for the electricity to operate it anymore.”

The broken system took a toll on both family health and finances. Juan shared, When the old machine broke, I started spending a large part of money I earned buying bottled water for my family… We had all become accustomed to drinking clean water, and I was concerned for their health.” This concern was more than warranted. Instances of acute diarrheal disease are typically attributed to some kind of contamination in the water supply and often affect children worse than adults. Before installing the water chlorinator, Self-Help conducted water tests in conjunction with the Ministry of Health which demonstrated that the village’s only water source, a nearby well, was horribly polluted with E. coli and other bacteria and unsafe to drink.

Following the installation of the CTI-8 water chlorination system, everything changed, and the community didn’t need to see the water test results to see the difference. When asked about the how the health of the populace has been affected, local nurse Idalia Rocha says, “The basic levels have clearly gone up because for every ten people we saw [before the CTI-8 installation], six or seven were for diarrhea related illnesses… now it’s more like one out of ten.” The local health records confirm that the number of recorded cases of acute diarrheal disease in Walter Acevedo has been cut in half or more in most months following the CTI-8 installation.

Roberto added, “Even when the other chlorinator worked, I had a bacteria problem in my stomach for two years… 1 month after the CTI-8 was installed, it was gone.” Reina, the local school principal and CAPS leader, added that children are spending more time in her classroom, now that they aren’t constantly seeking treatment at the health clinic. The CAPS leaders call the CTI-8 system a blessing. At the end of the interview they all reaffirmed, “Ahora, tomamos con confianza! – We now drink with confidence!

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Orlando interviews nurse from Walter Acevedo

Orlando interviews nurse from Walter Acevedo

Submitted by Mack Thompson – Clean Water Intern