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

In the world of global development, Project Hope honors the legacy of the U.S. Navy and its service during World War II. Impassioned and committed to serving others, Dr. William Walsh returned to the U.S. from the South Pacific. Across the region, countless children died too young from preventable diseases. He then envisioned a “floating medical center” to provide health education and advanced care. In 1958, it became a reality.

Dr. Walsh directly lobbied U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, persuading him to donate a U.S. Navy ship. As a hospital ship, the USS Consolation developed to serve the most at-risk countries. For two years, these partnerships “refitted and equipped” the ship it became the SS Hope. With $150, Dr. Walsh and the Navy converted this war-time ship into a peace-time ship. Individuals and corporations partnered to improve the care offered to those in need.

The Navy recruited doctors, nurses, and technologists throughout the country. For every U.S. citizen on-board, he or she had a counterpart in the country served. This counterpart received the necessary training, sustaining U.S. efforts to reduce the burden of disease.

On September 22, 1960 the SS Hope began its initial journey from San Francisco to Indonesia. The ship provided training and direct treatment to the following countries: Vietnam, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Columbia, Brazil, Jamaica, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Guinea, and Tunisia. Fourteen years and eleven voyages, and the its spirit endures today through the work of Project Hope.

The ship retired in 1974, but Project Hope continues to honor its partnership with the U.S. Navy. Medical volunteers from the Navy provide land-based support, learning from the testimonies of HOPE alumni.

Project Hope advances the health care in developing regions by offering “training, technical assistance, and expert mentoring.” To build the capacity of local healthcare systems, this program must partner with local governments and private corporations. This ensures sustainable improvement, as opposed to immediate relief. Currently, the program aligns with traditional “train the trainer model.”

In times of crisis, its mission to enact lasting change persists. Those serving the region care for those in immediate need but instruct locals throughout the process and restores health facilities.

In addition to promoting health training, this program rehabilitate health facilities. Donations allow Project Hope to improve the distribution of medication and vaccines. Every year, it ships commodities worth 200 million dollars. The U.S. State Department serves as one of the largest donors, and Project Hope ensures this funding arrives safely to the necessary site.

Charity Navigator rates it 67 out of 70 in transparency and accountability. 95.1 percent of its total expenses directly fund services in developing regions, with an estimated three percent contributing to fundraising and two percent to administrative costs. This low overhead cost indicates a commitment to the service.

The SS Hope voyaged the world and today, its destination remains in the hands of those it served. Rather than passively providing resources, it empowers local men and women to steer the program.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: Project Hope, Charity Navigator
Photo: Wikimedia