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Saturday
May142011

Fighting Cholera and Dirty Water in Earthquake-Ravaged Haiti

Thinkstock/Getty Images(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) -- On Saturday, former carnival singer Michel Martelly takes over the presidency of Haiti as that country continues to struggle with water-borne diseases like cholera following the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country in 2010.

Five thousand people have died in Haiti from cholera since the outbreak began in October 2010, according to United Nations officials.

World Water Relief, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, is a small group of dedicated humanitarians trying to fix the problem of dirty water in Haiti by installing clean water systems, but even more effectively by teaching kids how to wash their hands. So far, World Water Relief's cholera prevention program has taught basic hygiene classes in 100 schools and has reached 30,000 students in Haiti.

Although millions of dollars were donated in the terrifying aftermath of the earthquake, the country has still not significantly recovered.

"When I started going to down to the [region] doing medical mission work, I quickly realized that you can treat all these problems with medicine, but the real problem is that people don't have access to clean water," Dr. Kevin Fussell, vice chairman of the board for World Water Relief told ABC News.

Globally, more than 3.5 million people die each year from waterborne illnesses like cholera, according to World Water Relief. More than 80 percent of those who die from those diseases are children.

A deadly outbreak of cholera struck Haiti in October 2010, stemming from the unsanitary conditions that continue to plague Haitians.

"We were in Haiti [in fall 2010] when the cholera epidemic broke out, so it was really important to teach kids really basic hygiene," Tim Douglas, an education coordinator for World Water Relief, told ABC News. That involved teaching "when to wash your hands, how to wash your food, use a latrine, clean the latrine -- really basic stuff. But you realize it's difficult to do there, because you want to wash your hands but there's no clean water."

World Water Relief buys water filtration systems from a company called PURAUV, which sells ultraviolet water filtration systems. It installs large, 300-gallon tanks so that even if electricity cuts out, the purified water will flow out through the force of gravity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio