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3 November 2005 | Printer friendly

Low technology makes water safe

A three-step plan to make water safe for babies and young children in rural Romania had immediate effects on children’s health. Previously, pollution of well water was causing “blue-baby-disease”, diarrhoea, and hepatitis. It was also presenting risks of thyroid and brain dysfunction.

Seven million mostly rural people in Romania depend on wells for their water supply. Most of them are privately owned and the water is not controlled for quality. Romania is not an exception in Eastern Europe.

When NGO Medium et Sanitas, a member of Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) arrived in Garla Mare, their tests found that water in every one of the 78 municipal wells was polluted with nitrates, bacteria and pesticides. They set about installing water filters on two springs and providing information to those using the wells on the importance of filtered water for babies and children. This simple intervention alone benefited 500 children in the area.

The next step was organising household conversions to hygienic outdoor toilets with the help of the “dry separation” system. This system prevents faecal waste affecting the groundwater and therefore helps to reduce bacterial pollution of well water. Third, and most difficult, the NGO addressed the issue of agricultural pollution, particularly as a result of the heavy use of the pesticide, atrazine. The approach has involved public meetings and the organisation of trips to organic farms in Romania for twenty-five farmers from Garla Mare.

The success achieved for children’s health in Garla Mare has not gone unnoticed. A WECF partner organisation in Ukraine has used the experience to start a similar project for a rural community there.

- Source: Children’s health and environment case studies summary book, World Health Organization, 2004, p. 21-23.
- Update on the project available on the website of Women in Europe for a Common Future

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