Working together to save children’s lives through clean water – Part 2

In the last post, I introduced a recent study done in Bolivia to test the effectiveness of a water filter in combating diarrhea among young children. Usually nothing more than a mere inconvenience or a trip to the doctor for children in the U.S., diarrhea kills about 1.5 million children per year in places where clean water and health care simply aren’t available at all.

Click here to learn more background details about this study.
In this post, we’ll examine the results.

Mothers from about 1,700 households volunteered to participate in this study, and they were divided into four groups:

  • The filter group received filters and training on how to use them. No training on health and hygiene.
  • The behavior-change group received training on health and hygiene. No filters.
  • The combined group received filters, training on how to use them, and training on health and hygiene.
  • The control group essentially was undisturbed, in terms of physical health. No changes were made to water filtration or behaviors in health and hygiene.

Each of these four groups was split into care groups in which mother leaders were trained in the various messages (how to use the water filter, how to keep good health and hygiene, how to follow God’s design for family relationships). And each of these mother leaders shared her message with eight to 12 other women in the neighborhood.

“The filter made a very rapid change in diarrhea,” says Karen Neiswender, FH’s health program support specialist. “Once children started drinking clean water, the cause/source of where they got diarrhea was cut off. So in one month, we already had a statistically significant change in prevalence.”

On average, each group (aside from the control group) brought the prevalence of chronic diarrhea down from 50 percent to about 10-12 percent among children aged 6 months to 3 years. 

According to the mothers in Uspha Uspha, the filter has made life better:

  • Cooking is easier because clean water is readily available (doesn’t need to be boiled).
  • The filter is easy to clean and maintain.
  • Children are not sick as often; this reduces childhood deaths and allows the family to save money that would have been spent on doctor’s bills and medicine.

While some logistical hiccups made it difficult to compare the groups side-by-side (one group received its filters long before another, throwing off the results), this study clearly showed that both the Sawyer water filter itself and the introduction of good health and hygiene practices will save children’s lives.
These water-saving hand-washing stations are used to promote good hygiene.


All families involved in this study kept their water filters, and additional filters were distributed to families in communities surrounding Uspha Uspha. FH also uses these filters in Guatemala, and Sawyer Products partners with organizations worldwide to increase health through clean water.
“Even with less-than perfect use,” Karen says of the water filter,” it is effective at reducing diarrheal incidence.”

Emiliana (left), an FH staff member who facilitated the care groups for this study, presented mother leaders with certificates of participation for their time and effort spent sharing with others what they learned about hygiene and health.

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