So many times as humanitarians we try to search for the silver bullet that will solve the rampant poverty and inequality felt throughout the developing world. Many NGOs believe education, or empowering women, or micro-loans are the modern day silver bullets. But there are much simpler and even more pressing issues than these ideas that must be solved first.
It is very hard for a child to focus on education when their stomach aches, or a person to start a business using micro-loans when they are in serious risk of dying from dehydration due to diarrhea. Both situations are unfortunately very common within the developing world. Their cause: poor drinking water quality. The complex issues that face our brothers and sisters through the globe do need to be addressed, but people first must have the basic necessity that we take for granted, safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 60% of the deaths in the developing world can be attributed to unsafe drinking water. Moreover, most of those deaths are caused by microbial agents that we learned to remove at the turn of the twentieth century!
The beauty of water quality treatment is that there are so many different methods that can be applied, covering a vast range of technological sophistication. The solution to providing safe drinking water can be as simple as a bio-sand filter, or as complex as an entire water treatment plant. The important part is that we first help to create a foundation that will be relied upon as the more complex problems are defined.
by Mark Kalivoda, Civil and Enviromental Engineering UFL undergrad student. President of Engineers without Borders, University of Florida Chapter