Wednesday, 16 June 2010

What is the water filter project?

The project is a one year scientific experiment to see how well this particular water filter works. It is a simple filter made in the US that strain out bacteria and microorganisms that cause sickness and diarrhoea in children and adults. The project started last November, and is targeting mothers with children less than 3 years of age.

Information was initially collected from hundreds of mothers within the communities in and around Uspa Uspa in Cochabamba. The mothers were then divided up into 4 different groups. One group was a control group who receive nothing during the experiment period, a second group receive training sessions on behaviour change, with regards to how they can improve their health and drinking water (i.e. by boiling water and washing hands before eating), a third group received just the filters and instructions as to how to use them and the last group received both the water filters and the training sessions on behaviour change.

Throughout the year 3 water samples of drinking water are taken from the homes, as well as follow up questions regarding the health of the children and families. These results are then analysed to assess what changes if any are taking place. The initial results after just the second round of water testing, which we did with the students, are already showing positive results from the use of the water filters. At the end of the study, all those who have taken part in the experiment will be given a water filter.

With the students we were taking the second round of water samples and recording the changes found in the samples after 24 or 48 hours. The chemical that we added to the samples was used to detect the presence of microorganisms that fed on faecal material. The presence of these particular microorganisms (there are many different types in the water) would change the colour sample from clear amber to black (this could range from just a few black specs appearing in the sample or the entire sample going black). Some of the samples we collected demonstrated a high level of contamination as they very quickly turned black, however, we saw some more encouraging results as the samples from the filters had significantly lower levels of contamination. There was not much time for chatting with the mothers when taking the water samples, as there were so many to do. However, Emily and Roanna had the opportunity to do this in the focus groups that they took part in during the second week.

The biggest problem that is faced with a project such as this in the area in which it is being done is that it is a community that is very transient. A family who could be easily found one week could be gone by the next having either moved to the city or just another area of the community. The Mothers involved in the project have often moved house within the community every couple of months or have left the community and returned either to the countryside or moved to another country for work. This has added quite a high level of frustration to those doing the experiment, however, at present the numbers involved still enable to experiment to be viable.

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