Public Health Infrastructure Projects
Volunteers work with local masons and our local staff to assist families in constructing public health infrastructure projects based on each family’s needs. Current projects include eco-stoves, latrines, water storage units, showers and drinking water filters. Depending on annual income, each family contributes 25-30% of the total project cost. Evidence concludes that by investing in their own health, families are more likely to maintain the projects and properly use them.
Many families currently cook over open flames in poorly ventilated rooms, leading to inhaling smoke, eye irritation, and other health problems. The majority of rural families use wood-burning stoves (without chimneys) for all their daily cooking.
Public Health Brigades build eco-stoves with families to replace their open-flame stoves. The eco-stove design includes a chimney, which filters smoke and other pollutants outside the home and significantly reduces pulmonary illness. Additionally, these stoves reduce the daily wood used, from 30 pieces of wood to eight. This dramatically saves families both time and money for gathering wood, and also decreases environmental impact.
The lack of proper sanitary facilities in many rural homes causes the spread of infectious disease and parasites through contamination of water sources. In particular, diarrhea often spreads through poor sanitary conditions, killing 4.5 million children each year worldwide.
Public Health Brigades build a latrine with an underground septic tank, which provides the family with a hygienic way to dispose of human waste.
Water Storage Units
After a community has a working water system with treated water, the next step is storing that water in a sanitary container for easy access.
Public Health Brigades builds partially covered water storage units (also called “pilas”). These units reduce the time spent bringing water from the local source and ensures that families have the ability to practice good personal hygiene and sanitation, such as washing their dishes, hands, clothes, and bathing children. Additionally, proper water storage prevents a breeding ground of mosquitoes, the source of malaria and dengue fever.
One of the key activities in practicing proper personal hygiene is to bathe daily, yet most rural homes in GB’s partner communities do not have a private, sanitary place to do this. Without a space designated to bathing, nor the clean water to do so, people are often forced to bathe in streams or other contaminated exposed sources of water. Even with water in the home and a storage unit, community members still commonly lack an area to bath in privacy.
A shower area is a component of each hygiene station that Public Health Brigades constructs in community member’s homes. Built of cement block, with a proper drainage system and a lockable door, the structure provides privacy and promotes improved hygiene, while preventing problems with standing water on the property.
Drinking Water Filters
Consuming contaminated drinking water is one of the primary causes of illness in rural, developing communities. An in home drinking water filter serves multiple purposes for a family. The filter acts as the last line of defense to prevent physical, chemical and biological contaminants from entering the body. It also serves as a sealed storage container with a tap, decreasing the likelihood that a family’s drinking water is re-contaminated by improper manipulation of the water, animals, or dust.
Public Health Brigade volunteers deliver drinking water filters to each family that they work with, install the filters and educate the family on the its importance to their health, and how to correctly use, maintain, and clean it.