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Water for Africa is an interdisciplinary approach to development attempting to balance technology and education while ensuring Reciprocity among project partners. The WATER (West African Technology, Education and Reciprocity) program is designed to meet the needs for a thirsty planet. As part of the WATER program 17 students from eight academic programs and 3 faculty members traveled to Benin in August 2007.
The WATER for Benin Program directly addresses the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The people in Benin suffer health consequences from drinking water that is contaminated with pathogens. The WATER program provides a design for sustainable point-of-use drinking water filter. The technologies transferred to our partner, the Songhai Center in Benin, have provided the impetus for a cottage industry in making drinking water filters and the manufacturing equipment to produce the filters. We hope to expand upon this success by making activated carbon and training health care workers at the Songhai Center as part of second phase of the WATER program. Providing clean water and economic stimulation by using local materials and agricultural waste products will help protect the environment as well as human health.
The market for a point-of-use treatment technology is immense. UNICEF estimates at least 33% of the 8.4 Million people living in Benin lack access to potable water. Therefore, in order to meet the UN MDGs 200,000 people must gain access to potable water each year. Assuming an average of 5 people living in each home, 50,000 drinking water filters are needed each year.
The objective of the WATER program was to make available affordable and sustainable water treatment available for families in Benin.
The United Nations (UN) has developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) program to reduce poverty and improve access to water and sanitation throughout the developing world. The UN has specifically stated a goal to halve the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015. On March 19th, 2006, a statement by the UN noted this goal was in jeopardy in sub-Saharan Africa due to drought, poverty and political factors. In short, experts in the field of sustainable development believe providing clean water and sanitation for sub- Saharan Africa is one of the world’s greatest challenges. International organizations describe, and on-scene interviews with residents confirm, that these diseases affect more than 50% of those living in poverty in Benin. In other words, the lack of access to potable drinking water is the leading cause of early mortality and disease for more than 1.2 million people in Benin.
Waterborne diseases spread pathogens by the ingestion of urine or feces contaminated water. Typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, schistosomiasis and cholera are just a few of the diseases spread by contaminated water. Diarrheal diseases are the third leading cause of death in Benin after lower respiratory infections and malaria, respectively. Maternal mortality rates are estimated to be 850 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. It is estimated that 167 of every 1,000 children die before the age of five in Benin. Providing the technology to implement point-source water treatment in the community can significantly reduce the percentage of children under 5 (7.1%) who die due to diarrheal diseases.