A good way to learn about an aid organization is to see it at work on a current issue. AmeriCares is one of the organizations currently sending aid to countries affected by the recent West African Ebola outbreak.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are directly involved in what is being called the largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history. At least 700 people have already died, with 1,300 more infected. What’s worse, there is no vaccine for Ebola and the fatality rate is almost 60 percent.

AmeriCares has sent three shipments of emergency medical equipment to the affected countries. The delivery weighed 2,700 pounds and included tens of thousands of surgical masks and caps, gloves and various medical supplies.

Support like this is desperately needed in the affected countries, as they are lacking in medical equipment and supplies. Liberia and Sierra Leone have stated that the demand for intravenous fluids is rapidly outnumbering the supply.

Luckily, in conjunction with Baxter International Inc., AmeriCares is sending enough intravenous fluid for 3,000 patients. This should cover everyone affected in both countries for the near future.

AmeriCares is a U.S. based non-profit founded in 1982. Its main goal is to provide direct aid assistance during times of crisis. According to their website, they “deliver medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to a trusted network of clinics, hospitals and health care providers around the world.”

Even though direct aid during times of crisis is its main form of support, it still tries to foster sustainable healthcare practices and to “increase capacity, improve quality and provide more access to health care in the world’s poorest countries.”

This means giving medicine and medical attention to people that would otherwise not be able to afford it. For example, in Romania a boy with hemophilia was given the treatment of Factor VIII so that he could live a normal life. Or in Cambodia, where a woman with breast cancer now has access to the medicine and equipment necessary for her treatment.

AmeriCares’ website has dozens of examples of the everyday lives it changes by simply allowing for access to medical facilities and supplies.

Besides the recent Ebola outbreak, AmeriCares is working on other current crises: it has delivered $19.7 million in relief aid to the Philippines in response to the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan. It states that its money is used for, “medicines and medical supplies, antibiotics, chronic care meds, bandages, nutritional supplements, blankets and other relief supplies for hospitals and health centers.” AmeriCares sends volunteers to help in the relief effort, as well.

AmeriCares is also active in the Syrian Conflict. In June 2013, it sent a response team to Jordan and Turkey to assess the situation of Syrian refugees. So far, $2 million have been sent in medical aid for the refugee camps.

The amount of medical aid sent will help around 67,000 people affected by this crisis.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: The Guardian, It’s Relevant, AmeriCares, Charity Navigator
Photo: New York CBS

clean water
As of 2005, one in six people are without access to clean water. Perhaps they spend a huge fraction of their income to gain access to a truck that distributes clean water to them, which, ultimately, might not even be clean. They might simply drink available water that holds dangerous bacteria, or that is laced with chemicals. Slightly less than 1 billion people wake up knowing that their first demand of the day is to find any source of water at all.

It isn’t as if water purification hasn’t been perfected in a number of other contexts. Drug companies purify water in huge quantities to produce medicine. The U.S. Navy found methods by which drinking water could be desalinated.

But both of these methods lack the level of portability needed to address the issue of water deprivation in impoverished regions. Methods like chlorine tablets exist, along with reverse osmosis plants. Yet problems of portability persist. It’s possible only some pollutants get purified, and others remain. Sometimes parts are too expensive to replace or are difficult to find.

The struggle with water purification for those in poverty has obviously been a long one, but it looks like the end might be in sight. It comes in the form of a plain-looking box, no larger than a mini refrigerator. Behind its design is a unique story, and its benefits have been a long time coming.

Dean Kamen has been working on what he calls the Slingshot for over 10 years. The inventor of the Segway, Kamen came to the project when Baxter International asked for his help. They had built a device to perform a procedure called peritoneal dialysis, which uses sterile saline to filter a patient’s blood. Kamen’s job was to refine and improve the machine.

It required huge amounts of purified water, or what amounted to multiple gallons a day for each patient. Kamen and his team turned to a simple scientific principle to solve their problem: they recycled the energy used when water evaporates. Now, Kamen has a device that he says can “take any input water, whether it’s got bioburden, organics, inorganics, chrome and… make pure water come out.” Kamen explains that the Slingshot could provide perfectly clean water using less power than a typical hairdryer.

Kamen’s last challenge is getting the Slingshot where it needs to go. Alongside Coca-Cola in October of 2012, Kamen announced plans with the company to bring the Slingshot to remote regions of Africa and Latin America. The partnership had already sent 15 of the machines to Ghana in 2011. Also involved in the process were the Inter-American Development Bank and Africare.

But Kamen has even bigger plans. His next project will work to reach even more people in need of clean water with his energy-efficient Stirling generator, solving the lack of electricity that could inhibit the use of the Slingshot. In the near future, Kamen has made it quite possible that millions of people will no longer face water insecurity.

— Rachel Davis

Sources: Popular Science, HowStuffWorks, Coca-Cola
Photo: Business Week