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Friday, January 27, 2017

Big Time Science

I think we all thought I was done with this blog, but here I am again. Happy new year, friends.

During my Peace Corps service, I was also enrolled as a masters student at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. To earn my Peace Corps Masters International degree, I conducted a research project on drinking water treatment in my region (Kolda) during the last 6 months or so of my service.

In short:

It's estimated that about 5% of people throughout West Africa treat their water before they drink it.
Treating drinking water has been shown to lead to decreases in diarrheal disease.
Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of death of children under 5.
Peace Corps and other organizations would like to see an increase in people treating their water and a subsequent decrease in child deaths.
One method of water treatment (liquid bleach) is safe, affordable, readily available, and easy.
Many people throughout the Kolda region reported that they already knew how to treat drinking water using this method.
Some people do treat their water with bleach before drinking it.
Yet most people don't.
And does it really work?
And is it really safe?

My project involved a total of 96 surveys being given to caregivers throughout the region of Kolda, some of whom treat their water and some who don't. It was looking for motivations and barriers to water treatment.

To test the efficacy of water treatment "out in the wild," I also did field testing of drinking water for E. coli and coliforms using 3M Petrifilms.

Then, when I returned to Michigan, I did a literature review on similar work done on drinking water treatment in rural developing countries.

I found that bleach definitely kills bacteria (shocker!), but the survey results were a bit murkier.

If you'd like to read more, here's 60 pages of goodness. I included gratuitous baby photos, because why not.


Happy reading!


Barbara Michel, new Master of Science