“Waterborne diseases affect 37.7 million Indians annually. In India, diarrhoea alone causes more than 1,600 deaths daily. The World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water.”
“Malaria is a public health problem in several parts of the country. About 95% population in the country resides in malaria endemic areas and 80% of malaria reported in the country is confined to areas consisting 20% of population residing in tribal, hilly, difficult and inaccessible areas.”
-Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme
In India malaria and diarrhoea are responsible for death of thousands of children in India. Malaria and diarrhoea are also responsible for deaths of thousands of children in countries of South Asia, South East Asia and Africa.
Diarrhoea is due to lack of sanitation and unsafe drinking water, while malaria is due to certain species of mosquitoes (lack of sanitation also helps in breeding mosquitoes).
If we can provide safe drinking water and mosquito nets to people below poverty, it can prevent lot of deaths.
Switzerland based company Vestergaard was started by Kaj Vestergaard Frandsen. It used sell uniforms. Kaj’s grandson Mikkel decided to manufacture products which serve social cause.
Company came up with innovative ideas to tackle two major areas of concern in third world- vector borne diseases and water borne diseases.
It designed a mosquito net with insecticide to prevent people from diseases caused due to mosquito bites. The product was called Perma net.
To tackle water borne diseases they came up with innovative design of water filter shaped like a straw, so that a person can drink water directly from source using this straw called Lifestraw.
These products are innovative (Vetergaard won awards for innovation) and can help large section of Indian population esp. those living in tribal and hilly areas, which no government official bothers to visit.
But some have criticised these products esp. Lifestraw. The product is expensive and there are doubts about its effectiveness.
Still, nothing stops Indians from coming up with improved versions of these products or a new product altogether.
“There is little evidence that LifeStraw Family water filters reduce diarrheal disease under real-world community conditions. There is exactly one rigorous study looking at health impacts. Tom Clasen, an excellent researcher, and his team, did a 12-month randomized trial in the Congo where they gave filters to 240 households: They did not find a statistically significant reduction in diarrheal illness.
-Kevin Starr in Stanford Social Innovation Review