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Team Combats Waterborne Illness in Afghan Province

By Army 1st Lt. Amber Balken
Special to American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 31, 2008 – Doctors and medics with the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan’s Zabul province are teaching medical providers to purify water and reduce waterborne illnesses.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Bill Errico of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, shows Iraqi doctors how to use a water purification machine. The PRT medical team donated water purification systems to hospitals throughout the province. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Costello

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

PRT members taught five medical providers in Shajoy district how to operate, clean and sustain a new water purification machine provided by the PRT. The team's goal is to provide the doctors with the means to enable Zabul residents to purify their own water, officials said.

The purification machine, a sodium hypochlorite generator, transforms salt and water into a solution that purifies nonpotable water. The machine generates the solution in about eight hours from 10 pounds of salt and 40 gallons of water, taken from a well or river, officials said. One tablespoon of solution purifies four gallons of water.

Providers at the Shajoy hospital plan to use the machine to make the solution and distribute it to local families to purify their drinking water.

The solution kills 99.9 percent of the bacteria that cause diarrhea and death, officials said.

More than half of all illnesses in the province are diarrhea-related, officials said. The purified water is projected to reduce the diarrhea rate in the province to 25 percent.

"This is a very sustainable machine," Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Bill Errico, with the PRT, said. "This process is easy, relatively inexpensive and something that each Afghan household can do to keep their family healthy."

Along with Shajoy, the PRT also plans to provide three more machines to other locations in Zabul province.

(Army 1st Lt. Amber Balken works in the Zabul province’s provincial reconstruction team public affairs office.)

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