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Ugandan widow an “early adopter” of BioSand Water Filter technology

When Samaritan’s Purse arrived in her village in Uganda, offering concrete boxes filled with sand and gravel that could end everyone’s periodic bouts of painful and energy-draining diarrhea, Florence Akullo quickly welcomed the BioSand Water Filter and related hygiene training.

In the high-tech world, people who embrace technology at its early stages are called “early adopters.”

Florence Akullo is an early adopter in her little village in the Oyam region of north-central Uganda. When the 56-year-old widow learned Samaritan’s Purse had approached the local government council, offering to build and install BioSand Water Filters in some of the local residents’ homes, Florence did all she could to ensure her modest clay-and-thatch hut would be one of the first to receive a filter.

“I hoped the filter would improve the water (which was) turbid with lots of impurities,” Florence said, after ensuring the meeting began with prayer to thank God for Samaritan’s Purse’s donors who have helped her village.

Dirty water in a Ugandan village’s hand-dug well.

Florence says for years, she and her children (only one of whom is now still living at home), would become sick with diarrhea every two to four weeks. The diarrhea and stomach aches prevented her from working in her fields and her children from attending school, while also requiring many time-consuming visits to the local hospital, and the costly purchase of medications.

Her neighbors were plagued with similar problems, creating an economic drag on the entire community.

Florence’s health improved dramatically last August after she received her BioSand Water Filter, which transforms murky contaminated water into safely drinkable water in seconds.

“Since I’ve been using my filter,” she says with a delighted smile, I’ve never been to the hospital.”

Her very neat household also includes a latrine, hand-washing station, and dish-drying rack—all intended to ensure water from the filter doesn’t become contaminated. She learned about those elements through our health and hygiene training that comes with every BioSand Water Filter.

Florence Akullo gathering filtered water from her BioSand Water Filter.

Dour Eddie, manager of our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program in the Oyam region, said support from generous donors are enabling us to provide 4,230 hand-dug wells, build 4,200 BioSand Filters, and offer health and hygiene training for more than 30,000 people in the region.

Dour and his Samaritan’s Purse colleagues learned during the first phase that it was relatively easy to convince Ugandans of the value of the BioSand Filters. What proved more challenging was convincing people to stop openly defecating, and instead build and use latrines, and regularly wash their hands.

That’s why the program’s latest phase includes health and hygiene training at not only the household level (aimed mainly at adults) but also in area schools. That strategy, Dour says, results in the parents and children each reminding the other of the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation.

“We must avoid contaminated water from not hand-washing,” he warned.

Florence proudly shows unfiltered water on the right, and filtered water on the left.

Dour noted that Florence is part of a model community—meaning it’s setting an example for others in the area by how consistently it has implemented all the key elements of Samaritan’s Purse’s Water, Sanitation and Health program, including regular hand-washing.

He estimated 70-80 per cent of the diseases requiring hospital treatment in the Oyam region “could be prevented by practicing safe health and hygiene,” and eliminating these hospital visits would cut local health care costs by 80 per cent. Ugandan government officials know this, Dour said, and it’s why they are so supportive of Samaritan’s Purse and our WASH program, including health and hygiene training.

Someone, usually a child, is dying every 37 seconds in the developing world from the diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and inadequate sanitation. Please join us in providing affordable and effective solutions in the name of Jesus Christ, the source of the eternal Living Water. The need is very urgent.