by Lara Smallman
The cold, hard facts –
Before you get to the end of this paragraph, a child will have died from a water-related disease. That’s one death every 20 seconds. 3.575 million people are dying each year from water-related diseases. According to End Water Poverty A staggering 783 million people lack access to safe water supplies, that's approximately one in eight people.
'I've heard this all before,' -
Some, if not all of you, are thinking right about now. Indeed, we're bombarded by facts and figures; sadly talk of concrete action tends to be much thinner on the ground. That’s where this very platform comes in to play. We are here to focus on potential solutions being developed or discussed across Europe.
And so, with statistics out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. The serious business of providing safe drinking water to every single person on the planet, and in so doing, preventing millions of deaths.
I came across the Life Straw, an invention intended for use in the developing world. It makes safe what is otherwise harmful, undrinkable water. It has received praise, and deservedly so. In certain situations it does the job, and does it well.
It does however have its limitations, namely the fact that there is no storage capacity whatsoever. Considering just how far people in developing countries have to walk to reach a water source, it is a great shame that there is no provision to return home with the newly purified, safe-to-drink water.
Reflecting on this product, its good intentions, but ultimate limitations, I soon began recalling a piece of television from a few years back...
Five years ago, two young British entrepreneurs cautiously made their way into the Dragon’s Den (a prime-time British TV show, which gives inventors/business people a chance to pitch for investments.) Armed with nothing more than an A-board showing their product, a water purification system called ‘Midomo', in 2D, the two set about explaining their vision.
You can watch that here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa3zPPs3k60
With what seems at first glance to be the answer to the prayers of the 884 million people without access to clean water, I wrote to Amanda Jones (who you'll see in the video below), to find out why, five years on, their product isn't a main stay of every household in the developing world. Asked if money, or rather, lack of, were to blame - Amanda explained it is the 'primary reason'. 'Getting funding for this kind of thing', she added, 'is a real challenge'. She also put delays down to the inevitable naivety involved in designing a product from scratch.
Is 'Midomo' the answer to the world's water crisis? from Lara Smallman on Vimeo.
It has been announced today that we have met target C of Millennium Development Goal number 7 : ‘Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation'. There is no denying that this is fantastic news, the figure of 783 million lacking access to safe water, however, remains. In order for that shocking figure to fall, Midomo must become a main stay in homes across the developing world.
With the support of a number of leading experts in microbiology and international development, and an ingenious way of raising additional funds for the unit, I for one can't wait to see where Midomo is at twelve, or even six months from now, and what Red Button Design - a company whose tagline is 'design against dependency' - comes up with next.