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A parking garage reveals the simple PATH to health solutions
Posted by Kristi Heim
It seems appropriate that PATH held its biggest event of the year not in a downtown hotel or restaurant but in a Ballard parking garage.
About 750 people packed into PATH's spiffed-up garage this morning for an annual fund raising breakfast, consisting of simple quinoa pudding, empanadas and flat breads.
The global health non-profit displayed some of the ways it channels its money into low tech but effective methods of improving health around the world, from a delivery kit for hygienic home births to a new female condom.
COURTESY OF PATH
One of its most interesting new creations is called an "electro-chlorinator," which PATH developed with the help of Seattle-based outdoor gear maker Cascade Designs.
Disease persists in many parts of the world where garbage and sewage pollute water that people use for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
PATH CEO Chris Elias described such conditions in the Korogocho slum near Nairobi, where more than 100,000 people live in less than one square mile.
COURTESY OF PATH
A year and a half ago, PATH used $20,000 from donors marked for "innovation funding," to create a new solution in Korogocho. Those funds are set aside to try riskier but potentially successful new ventures.
The goal was to find a way to provide safe, clean water to a community within the slum, Elias said. The two partners came up with a device that runs on little more than salt, water and electricity from a car battery.
It works by producing a chlorine solution that kills dangerous microbes, making the water safe to drink, he said.
PATH hired a local contractor to build a building with electrical power and a water tank, and a kiosk where the water and chlorine solution could be sold. Three local health workers were trained to operate the electro-chlorinator and six local women to dispense the chlorine solution and instructions.
In December, "the first customer bought ten jerry cans of the treated water, at a price of one Kenyan shilling per liter," he said. "That's a little more than a penny apiece--affordable even in Korogocho."
Elias said he hopes to test the prototype in other locations and expand the model to many parts of the world lacking water treatment systems.
COURTESY OF PATH
Another of the non-profit's milestones was helping distribute mosquito bednets to two-thirds of homes in Zambia. PATH expects to reach the whole population within the next two years, he said, making Zambia the first country in Africa to meet the global targets for malaria control.
As a result, malaria prevalence in children has gone down by more than half, and the number of children dying of malaria in Zambia has been cut by a third, Elias said.
Looking at health care from another angle, PATH Nicaragua country manager Margarita Quintanilla talked about programs for adolescent girls and boys aimed at reducing violence against women in a country where one out of three women is abused.
PATH also focuses on heavily on vaccines, such as a new meningitis vaccine for sub-Saharan Africa, where about 450 million people -- more than the populations of the U.S. and Canada -- are at risk from the disease each year.
The first wave of young people will get the vaccine by the end of this year, Elias said, adding "It's the beginning of the end for a disease that has devastated Africa's poorest communities for more than a century."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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