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, concrete floors and water storage units. Depending on annual income, each family pays 10-20% of the total project cost. Evidence concludes that by purchasing, 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.
Presently, 7-10 million people in Latin America are infected with Chagas disease. This potentially fatal disease is spread by insects that burrow into the ground and bite people while they are sitting or sleeping on mud floors. Children are specifically prone to contracting this disease, as they learn to crawl and walk on the dirt floors, increasing the incidences of parasitic infection, diarrhea, and respiratory illness.
Public Health Brigades’ solid concrete floors keeps insects from borrowing into the floor, thus preventing the spread of disease. Dirt floors are also breeding grounds for fungus and bacteria that can often cause infection. Concrete floors provide a more sanitary living environment for families, who are able to easily sweep and mop a new, impeccable surface.
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.