Gifting Safe Drinking Water to Children

Unlike Singapore, where water from practically any tap is potable (even the water we use to flush our toilets is from a clean source!), in less developed countries like Cambodia, clean drinking water is hard to access.

According to the 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (2014 CDHS), the proportion of the population living in rural areas is 80.5 percent. Out of these, more than 40% of the population living in rural areas obtains water from a “non-improved source”. Non-improved sources are simply defined as sources that are not deemed of suitable quality. This reflects the categorizations proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. Furthermore, 31 percent of households report that they do not treat their drinking water before consuming it. It is difficult for families to boil their water before consumption because of the lack of electricity in rural areas.

One common consequence of not having a suitable source of water is frequent diarrhoea. According to the 2014 CDHS, exposure to diarrhea-causing agents is frequently related to the use of contaminated water and to unhygienic practices in food preparation. The same survey also shows that the prevalence of diarrhoea is higher among children who live in the poorest households, as well as in households without an improved source of drinking water.

Owing to the high proportion of rural households that do not have water of suitable quality, diarrhoea is a common and recurring problem. Out of the households that took part in the 2014 CDHS, thirteen percent of children under age 5 had diarrhea in the two weeks before they were surveyed, and two percent had diarrhoea with blood. Dehydration caused by severe diarrhea is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among young children. According to UNICEF, diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5.

This is why OHF is convinced that it is imperative that we provide clean, safe, drinking water to communities we serve. For years, we have been drilling wells to make drinking water accessible to households, particularly to those who have trouble travelling long distances to obtain drinking water. Recently, we decided to go further, to provide a UV sterilisation system that filters and sterilises the water before it is dispensed. We have started by building this UV Water Sterilisation System for 3 primary schools, and are looking for more partners to work with. Schools are a good place for us to install this water treatment unit as each school can have more than 300 students. Students are also allowed to fill up water bottles and bring the water home, where their families can use the water for drinking and cooking.

One of the schools we gifted this UV Water Sterilisation System to is Samporng Primary School. One of the teachers there expressed his gratitude to OHF for the gift. He said that diarrhoea is a common problem which frequently causes students to be unable to come to school. He is hopeful that with this new system, students’ learning would be less disrupted by frequent diarrhoea.

How does the UV sterilisation system work? First of all, we drill the ground as we would a normal well, and we lower an electric pump into the well. This pumps the water from under the ground up to the surface. It then passes through a filter, and then through a UV steriliser, before it can be dispensed by the students. The filter and UV steriliser work well together, so that both contaminants, as well as microorganisms can be eliminated. A UV water sterilisation system effectively destroys 99.9% of waterborne microorganisms. One example of these microorganisms is E.coli bacteria. E. coli is a dangerous bacteria that can cause serious and life threatening illness in humans. Well water can be contaminated with E. coli when animal waste pollutes the groundwater source. For an agricultural community that has animals roaming around, this is sometimes difficult to avoid. Passing the water through a UV steriliser is an effective way of killing E. coli bacteria as well as other harmful bacteria, viruses, and waterborne parasites.

Maintenance is also easy as only the UV lamp and sleeve need to be replaced, about once a year. This is important as our beneficiaries do not need to put in much effort to keep the system running, and can enjoy the fruit without worrying. It is a clean, safe, chemical-free and environmentally-friendly method of providing safe drinking water.

Each water system costs S$4,600. This will benefit more than 300 young children, as well as their families. Help us to bring change to communities. Click https://ohf.org.sg/safe-drinking-water-for-school-children/ to read more about our program, and donate to our program. Every dollar counts!

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