WHO Starts Project for Safe Drinking Water in India Slums

Experts from the World Health Organization, Population Services International and Sulabh International Institute of Health & Hygiene visited a slum cluster in west Delhi to launch their community-based safe water pilot intervention to reduce diarrheal diseases.
The organizations are partners in implementing the initiatives in twelve urban slums of west Delhi. The safe water system (SWS), a water quality intervention developed by WHO and Pan American Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), can reduce diarrhea cases by around 50 percent, experts claim.
The two-year pilot project likely to cover a population of approximately 150,000 and will run till September 2003.
The SWS includes a disinfectant packaged in bottles with a cap that acts as a dosing device. Safe water storage in plastic containers with a covered mouth and a spigot to prevent recontamination.
‘‘Our purpose is to provide a low cost simple and effective alternative for these people. The focus will be on generating awareness as most people here have poor sanitation and unsafe hygienic practices,’’ says Krishna Jaffar of PSI.
Experts wanted to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices in a few slums before launching the products. ‘‘We want to see for ourselves the link between the waterborne disease transmission and poor water supply and sanitation. If there are improvements in access to safe water, yet. We have selected the slums for the pilot as they are live sites and can be visited by anybody at anytime,’’ said Terrence Thompson, regional advisor, Water Sanitation and Health, WHO.
Unlike the government intervention, the SWS will not be distributed free. ‘‘The free items have no value and people generally throw them off. So we decided to generate awareness so that people will come forward and buy the products and then surely use them,’’ said Dr S. Nath from Sulabh.
Sulab would be imparting training to around 15,000 volunteers from the slum communities to create awareness. The volunteers mostly women will be given a profit percentage on selling the product.
However, most of the people living in these slums were not even aware of the basic hygiene norms. While many of them were willing to experiment with the disinfectant, the cost of the storing vessel is likely to keep the people away.
‘‘How can I buy a vessel costing Rs 150 when my husband earns just Rs 15,00 and has a family of six to feed,’’ said Sangeeta from Naraina slums.
For most of these people diarrhea is just a summer-related disease that has no serious manifestations. ‘‘My children suffer from the disease but it is mostly when they play in sun,’’ said Urmila a resident of Rivali slum dwellings.
The slums have no permanent source of water and the drinking water is mostly supplied by the MCD tankers. ‘‘The water coming from the pipelines is so polluted that we can see germs with naked eye,’’ said Mohd Gulam Nabi.


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