Simple water treatment device may reduce childhood diarrhea

Publicação: 2 de October de 2019

An automatic chlorine device installed in community shared water points can reduce diarrhea rates in children

Researchers hope the technique can improve uptake by providing tasteful water and avoiding the need for behavioral change

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) recognized access to water and sanitation as a universal right. Since then, member countries need to work to give people access to these rights by 2030. The goal, however, seems distant. Diarrheal disease, for example, affecting people with limited access to clean water, living in vulnerable and poor conditions, in poor hygiene and sanitation, is responsible for 88% of child deaths, called preventable deaths. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of child death worldwide, killing on average one child under 5 every minute. A World Bank Report released in 2017 (Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals) revealed that Bangladesh, for example, detected the E. coli bacteria in approximately 80% of the sampled taps, similar rate was extracted in the pond water.

But researchers have shown that a simple device can reduce rates of childhood diarrhea. The results of the two-year health impact test conducted in Bangladesh (“Effect of inline drinking water chlorination at the point of collection on child diarrhea in urban Bangladesh: a double-blind, cluster-randomized controlled trial”) revealed that using the device at the entrance of a domestic tank water treatment system reduced diarrhea as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in children by more than 25% if compared to untreated water. The research aimed to evaluate whether passive chlorination could reduce childhood diarrhea in a low-income urban environment. The study was published in September in the journal Lancet Global Health.

The results obtained with the use of the low cost water treatment device were celebrated by the researchers who now hope that the technique can improve the uptake, provide tasteful water and avoid the need for in-house treatment, providing improvements over other purification strategies, which can significantly increase acceptance. One of the authors of the research, Dr. Amy Pickering explains that the device is installed inside water tanks and as water flows, it adds the right amount of chlorine to disinfect. For her, this simple, electricity-independent technology can be transformative in scaling up water treatment in the slums and reducing childhood diarrhea. “We are confident that this approach can be transformative as it eliminates the user’s burden. Residents can collect water the way they normally would, and water is safe by default”, she says.

Chlorination is one of the cheapest and most widely available ways to disinfect water, but the taste and odor of the chemical are significant barriers for many people. But according to the author, the technology used in this test was able to automatically add chlorine in the right amount to inactivate bacteria and viruses, as well as making it possible to certify that the chlorine level would not affect the taste of water when dosing below the limit of flavor to most residents. “This has increased the acceptance of technology”, she says. To avoid bad taste water, the researchers consulted Dhaka (Bangladesh) residents to find out how much chlorine could remain in the water without being questionable. They then set chlorine dispensers to provide low levels in the first few months so that people got used to the taste. They later raised that amount to a level that effectively purified water while remaining acceptable in taste. Treated water was four times less likely to contain E. coli.

Aquatabs Flo water disinfection system

Working in two poor communities in Dhaka, the researchers tested a way to treat water, called Aquatabs Flo, an easy-to-install, easy-to-maintain, low-cost water disinfection system that can be adapted to the water tank within 30 minutes. The system makes water safe and keeps it safe in the tank due to the innovative residual balance. In developing countries, few cities are able to maintain fully pressurized water systems that consistently pump water all the time. Even if it is safe at source, water in these systems risks contamination while stored in piping. About 1 billion people who access water through piping systems receive it in a manner that does not meet international safety standards. Community-level treatment provides the landscape of providing safe drinking water to vulnerable slum dwellers around the world.

According to Aquatabs Flo Medical Director Dr. Michael Gately, the disinfection unit safely kills microorganisms, eliminating bacteria and viruses, and controls Legionella and prevents biofilm. “The simplicity of the design allows it to be automatically disinfected as soon as it enters the tank without the use of electricity. In addition, the device complies with the recommended performances by the WHO International for residential water treatment”, he explains.

So far tests have been performed with the device in Bangladesh, Venezuela, Kenya, Nigeria, Colombia, Uganda and Thailand. It has been installed in over 20 thousand schools in Nigeria and Kenya, and now 10 million children have safe drinking water in schools. “Our partners Impact Water Nigeria were announced as finalists for the Accelerate 2030, a social initiative that uses Aquatabs Flo to expand access to clean water in Nigerian schools”, celebrates the doctor. Learn more: https://accelerate2030.net/impact-water/. In Thailand, Medentech partnered with WARIDI and the local water authority to test Aquatabs Flo and its big sister Aquatabs InLine. Clean, safe drinking water will be provided for 13 thousand people, said Dr. Michael Gately. Learn more: https://resonanceglobal.com/working-private-sector-unlock-access-clean-water-sanitation-tanzania/.

“This first phase has been a success and the final reports are expected at any time. However, another on-site study is confirmed. These tests are performed to demonstrate that clean water systems can be efficient, easily controlled and maintained. But most importantly, it is inexpensive and affordable for the whole community, says Dr. Michael Gately while stating that following successful testing and ongoing use of Aquatabs Flo in schools and health centers, they are now looking for international partners to bring this innovative system to emerging communities around the world.

One in three people in the world have no access to safe drinking water

According to a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), published in June, billions of people worldwide continue to suffer from lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The report of the Joint Monitoring Program (“Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities”) reveals that while significant progress has been made in achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, there are still huge gaps in the quality of the services provided. “Mere access is not enough. If the water is not clean, it will not be safe to drink. If it is distant and if access to the bathroom is unsafe or limited, then we are not delivering these services to the world’s children”, said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF’s associate director for water, sanitation and hygiene.

The document also points out that every year, 297 thousand children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea associated with inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid. Still according to the report, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people (785 million) still lack basic services, including the 144 million who drink untreated water. The data show that 8 out of 10 people living in rural areas do not have access to these services; In addition, in 1 out of 4 countries with estimates for different income groups, the coverage of basic services among the rich was at least twice as high as among the poorest people.

Achieving the goals of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) will require commitment and countries must double their efforts on sanitation or universal access will not be achieved by 2030. Dr. Amy Pickering points out that in order to meet the SDGs, new strategies are needed to ensure that water supplies are disinfected in low-income urban communities.