Posted by: Wasrag | July 21, 2013

The Lougou Haiti ‘Light’ Water Story

CowSteve Sherner a Rotarian of 20 years from District 5580 has helped sponsor Patricia Schulz from Mayo Clinic on medical missions to Lougou Haiti for several years. When Steve received a follow up report from Pat’s 2009 trip it raised Steve interest considerably.  The children in Lougou were constantly sick and plagued by parasites. Pam had to treat the same villagers suffering from the same diseases each year due to lack of safe drinking water.

Steve reached out to fellow Rotarian Duane Holm from Duluth Harbortown Club and they agreed to come up with a clean water solution for the village.

After talking to COHFED a relief agency run by local Haitians, an exploratory trip to Lougou was planned to assess the village needs and gauge the interest of a local Haitian Rotary Club in working with the Duluth Harbortown and North Shore Clubs on a joint project.

Steve, an engineer and former utility executive did a lot of research on different types of water delivery systems used in rural communities in third world countries. From water wells and centralized units using solar and battery power to in home point of use Bio-sand filters and Sawyer Products micro filtration technology.

Steve and team left in March 2011 for their exploratory trip. After arriving safe in Lougou they got a quick tour of the village before being swamped by curious, happy school kids.

The Rotary group got to witness the COFHED community engagement process as at least 100 villagers showed up for a meeting. They all participated in breakout sessions and then came back together to further discuss. At this point the Rotary team addressed the gathering and described Rotary International and their offer to support them in their efforts to improve their lives was well received.

The group met the Lougou Water Committee (LWC) to talk over the best options for delivering clean water. They walked with the entire LWC throughout the village visiting 4 springs, the lagoon and river the villagers used. All sources were tested and were contaminated. Due to physical geography and scattered home locations a central water system would be impractical. The Rotarians presented their findings to the LWC and came to a joint decision on the Sawyer filter system.

Cholera was present while the Rotarians were there but flared up dramatically after they left. With a successful fundraiser by North Shore and Harbortown Clubs and an emergency approval of a matching World Community Services grant by District 5580, a team hand carried 100 Sawyer filter kits to Haiti on their return trip in June 2011. By then 2 villagers had died and 22 had been hospitalized from cholera.

P6218877The next morning the Rotarians and COHFED staff started delivery of the filter systems.  A demo filter system was put together and filled with the polluted water from the lagoon. It filtered, tested and proved bacteria free so COHFED leaders, Steve and each member of the LWC drank it in front of the villagers. When asked the LWC members said it tasted very ‘light’.

Then a production, distribution and training process was put into motion and within two hours the first 20 systems were in trained villager’s hands and headed for homes!!

The LWC decided to charge each family 100 gouds ($2.50) for their system so they’d take ownership and care for them. The committee intends to use the funds to keep the systems running.  If any families were in financial hardship the LWC agreed to waive the fee and some families worked in lieu of payment. By the time the group left Haiti, 80 units had been distributed and recipients trained on proper use and maintenance.

The LWC requested 80 more systems so that each family in a village of 1,600 could have their own filter.  By August a total of 180 Sawyer filters systems had been distributed and in use.

The North Shore and Harbortown Rotary’s final report, states the project was a “big success.” Full report here;

There has not been a case of typhoid and only two cases of cholera (villagers who had drank unfiltered water and eaten outside the village) since the Sawyer filters were put in service. The community nurse reports the children appear healthier and happier.

Ms. Schulz, now a registered Nurse Practitioner, recently reported “I was really looking forward to seeing how the people in the village were doing since I was last there in 2011, shortly after the Sawyer filter distribution.  I was glad to see the general health of the community has improved. I think access to pure water has made quite a difference. There was less suffering from parasites in the school children and their families.

The students had far fewer skin infections from scratching due to scabies, less ear infections, and less dental disease. The incidents of water borne disease were way down. Most of the patients were from outside of Lougou and the general health of these adults and children was much worse.  Most of the children had the swollen bellies from worms and serious skin infections.  Their health is much more fragile and I can remember when the children of Lougou looked the same. “

If your rotary club is considering a water project please contact and he will be delighted to send you a complimentary sample unit to see if it would be an appropriate technology to use in your project.

To download a 2 year study on the Sawyer Technology (note file is 5 MB) please click here.


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