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Safe Water for Generations

“Original” BioSand Filters still providing life-saving water after 20 years

“The water from it is so safe. It’s the way I grew up. It raised me.”

When we tell Fanu Tafer she owns one of the oldest BioSand Water Filters in all of Africa, the news prompts a satisfied smile.

Fanu is grateful for her filter’s age (20-plus years), and therefore its impressive durability, but she is also eager to talk about its profoundly beneficial impact on her family’s health.

The Ethiopian woman says that before they received a BioSand Filter from Samaritan’s Purse in 1999, they suffered monthly from typhoid fever or other diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe drinking water.

Fanu Tafer holding glasses of water: before and after being filtered. 

“I was at the point of death one time,” Fanu recalls. She had to be rushed to the nearest hospital.

There was another frightening incident when her husband was so weak with diarrhea that he collapsed while tending the family’s corn crop. Neighbors carried him home.

“The water from it is so safe. It’s the way I grew up. It raised me.” —Frealem Eshetu

Children missed valuable school time

Fanu, now 40, was often fearful that one or more of her three children would die from the water they gathered from a nearby lake where cattle drink and defecate. Each new round of diarrhoea forced the parents to miss precious work time and the children to miss equally precious school time.

But then Samaritan’s Purse arrived in her community, offering to build concrete filters for as many households as possible. Fanu welcomed our offer, and in the years since her family received their BioSand Filter, “we have never experienced diseases from the water,” she says.

When we ask Fanu if her filter will ever outlast her desire to use it, she insists; “Until I die, I will not stop using it.”
Her married daughter, Frealem Eshetu, has an equally strong attachment to the modest-looking concrete box. She tells us, “The water from it is so safe. It’s the way I grew up. It raised me.”

“I won’t drink water if it hasn’t been filtered”

Frealem Eshetu holds her young daughter, the third generation in her family to benefit from the same 20-year-old BioSand Filter.

Frealem’s brother Zerihtin was too young to remember the sickness his family experienced before getting their BioSand Filter. But he remembers getting sick from drinking water at other people’s homes with no filter: “I have that fear (of getting sick again) so I won’t drink water if it hasn’t been filtered.”

Zerihtin adds: “I am very grateful for our filter but I know many other people all over Ethiopia and in other countries still need them. And so I wish they could have them too.”

Before we leave Fanu’s home, we pray that God will grant her family more good health. They, in turn, promise to pray that Samaritan’s Purse will have the resources to continue building BioSand Filters in many parts of the world where they’re needed just as desperately as Fanu’s family needed one.

This video shows the effort that Fanu Tafera must invest each day in gathering dirty water from a nearby lake, then carrying it home before her BioSand Filter transform it into safe, drinkable water for Fanu and her family.

She’s been making the same daily trek for decades – and is very thankful for her BioSand Filter that’s been cleaning that water for the past 20 years.


A brief history

Dr. David Manz designed the BioSand Water Filter, which has been tested and proven effective by various experts including the World Health Organization. The filters have no moving parts to wear out, and operate for decades with little or no maintenance.

When Dr. David Manz invented BioSand Water Filters in 1994, he offered the technology to non-profit groups willing to use it to help in the developing world. That’s where someone—often a child—is dying every 37.5 seconds from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water quality and hygiene.

Samaritan’s Purse accepted David’s offer. We tested the technology, confirmed it could turn dirty water into safe water in minutes, then arranged for the construction of 12 steel molds from which concrete filters could be formed. We sent the molds to several countries where we and our local Christian partners began building filters. One of the countries was Ethiopia, where we’ve now built 32,000 filters.

BioSand Water Filter technology: cleans water as it moves through several layers

Worldwide, thanks be to God and to donors like you, we have built enough household BioSand Filters and larger-scale Samaritan’s Filters for schools and small communities to help almost 1.7 million people. But the urgent need for more filters continues, so please join us through your donations and prayers.

If you would like to financially contribute to our water projects, please click below.