Water, water nowhere: Social marketing and the quest for access to clean water

It’s one of the most essential things to a healthy life and taken for granted by those who have it. Lack of access to clean water plagues affected people with completely preventable diseases.

Argentina is the first developing country that I have lived in that has had water that you can drink from the tap without a filter but I still meet patients who do not have steady access to water. 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean water to drink, cook, bathe, and cultivate crops. Safe water helps to prevent diarrhea and other waterbourne diseases common to high rates of childhood mortality. Americans have seen some of the possible effects of unclean water on the food supply with outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli in the food supply. Fortunately, Americans also have access to antibiotics to treat these diseases. Millions are not so fortunate where outbreaks of water bourne illnesses are the norm rather than the exception.

A cost-effective intervention, both in regard to prevention and sustained wellbeing, access to safe water continues continues to lag in most development programs. Here is what the Millennium Development Goals have to access to clean water:

“Goal 7, target 10 of the Millennium Development Goals aims at halving by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”

Population Services International (PSI), a leader in social marketing campaigns, together with Proctor & Gamble has implemented a large social marketing effort to get safe water systems into homes. The systems allow the users to purify the water they do have access to with a powder that clears the water of pathogens and dangerous impurities leaving the water as clear as water from the tap. The powder is inexpensive to produce and can be produced locally. PSI leads educational campaigns to promote proper usage and hygiene.

World Vision UK has released a new viral video that targets the importance of clean water.

Hat tip: Osocio

Some innovative social entrepreneurship efforts are taking on the challenge as well. The LifeStraw filters water at the source, lasting for 700 liters of water purification. The newest campaign called the Coca Cola campaign that I have learned about comes from Simon Berry. Here’s is the idea of the campaign from the Facebook group:

Our idea is:
That Coca Cola use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to distribute rehydration salts. Maybe by dedicating one compartment in every 10 crates as ‘the life saving’ compartment?

Check out the Coca Cola campaign or any of the other organizations listed below to learn how you can help.

Other organizations concerned with access to safe, clean water:

Water Aid
World Vision
Oxfam

4 comments so far

  1. beth on

    There should be more of an outcry about this; clean water is one of the most basic necessities for survival and life. I think we remain largely uneducated about the great need that exists; thanks for your post.

    I’m also a big fan of Blood:Water Mission and their work for sustainable, communtiy-based water projects in Africa. See http://www.bloodwatermission.com

  2. Vanessa on

    There should be more attention on clean water given the fundamental necessity and the benefits that reverberate through communities once that have access. I haven’t heard of Blood:Water Mission so I will be sure to stop by their Web site.

  3. Simon Berry on

    Hi Vanessa
    Thanks for the ColaLife mention. Since you wrote your article, 30 days ago, around 150,000 children have died in Africa from simple causes like dehydration from diarrhoea.
    We are making good progress on the ColaLife campaign but need the Facebook Group to keep growing to keep the pressure on! Articles like yours really help. Thanks.
    With best wishes
    Simon
    07/09/2008

  4. Vanessa on

    @Simon I was glad to learn about the campaign and will continue to encourage people to support it. Ensuring access to clean water would address so many societal problems among the poor. I am glad to see that you have taken this campaign on and wish you the best of luck!


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