In 2001, I started to work in water purification
A person asked me; do you think you can make a personal water filter from a straw?
At that time and today, the Jimmy Carter program had a straw with a built in mesh filter in distribution in Africa. The program is sponsored by the Jimmy Carter foundation in cooperation with the Company Vestergaard Frandsen and together they had set the goal to eradicate Guinea worm.
A person becomes infected when they drink water that contains water fleas infected with guinea worm larvae. Initially, there are no symptoms. About one year later, the female worm forms a painful blister on the skin, and on a lower limb. The worm then emerges from the skin over the course of a few weeks. During this time, it may be difficult to walk or work. It is very uncommon for the disease to cause death. The Guinea worm straw program is a great success.
People proudly wear the straw around their neck showing they are protected and this action resulted in the disease gradually being pushed back to a level of eradication.
Following this development, the question asked is: would it be possible to design and produce a personal water filter for emergency situations which can filter out bacteria and toxins which are generally present in the water?
This work resulted in Lifestraw and belongs to the company Vestergaard-Frandsen. The process and working with the Vestergaard Frandsen have been one of my best years of my professional career. A great inspiration. I thank the company Vestergaard Frandsen for this wonderful experience.
When I moved on, I was left with many unanswered questions relating to water and hygiene and waterborne disease. Often, water wells contain very clean uninfected water. People coming to collect water from wells bring all kind of devices with them. In many African countries barrels, old plastic containers which held chemicals, oil containers and surfactants, jerry cans, and buckets are all in circulation.
These are used to transport water. Freshwater from the well enters these open devices and by the time the collector is home, the water is already contaminated. The same problem exists in refugee camps when people come to the central water tanker to fill up their containers or buckets.
For many years, buckets for example, are used for this purpose and there has been an effort to make buckets more suitable for the transportation of water. Many NGOs have their solution; e.g. the Oxfam bucket (Oxfam) and UNICEF collapsible containers.
One can ask the obvious: why not add a simple water filter to such devices therefore removing bacteria and toxins?
The technology is obviously present, and not at a great cost, but it hasn’t been done. My personal opinion is, that infected water has many sources. It is a part of the lack of daily hygiene when people are living together, no dedicated sewage system nor toilet facilities, nor water treatment system for human waste.
Many non Governmental organisations have therefore developed a so-called WASH program; Water and Sanitation Hygiene, a program promoting general hygiene such as toilet facilities, washing hands and developing sewage systems in villages. Often though, there are no toilets and no sewage infrastructure and no central collection of human waste. Contaminated human waste enters directly into the groundwater and the cycle of infection is complete: waterborne disease.
To combat the complexity of these water-borne diseases; every single issue has to be tackled separately and the web of the different contributing parameters has to be eliminated one by one. One of these contributing parameters is indeed the transport of water. Bringing in contaminated water to be used into the household and for drinking water, are factors which contribute to getting ill. It is that simple.
For this reason I started Aquaid.
There hasn’t been a lot done to develop or create better designs for hand carried water. Most plastic containers are voluminous, made of soft and hard plastics but not really suitable for the average person carrying the water, and then bringing the collected water home uncontaminated.
This problem inspired me to rethink, design and make simpler bags. A bag which is light-weight and strong can be used for other purposes as well, it can work both over land and air, it is simple to transport, easy to distribute and also it is air tight. It took 6 years to get to the right design which I financed myself.
A design can always be improved upon; but the current range of these developed products fulfils its aim; a strong water bag which lasts at least a year, that can stand-up on its own and is a part of a carton box used as a stable tripod.
The bag can be removed out of the tripod box, refilled and put back in place. It can stand on a table or other surfaces that are easily accessible for the family delivering clean and uninfected water. In short, a handy useful design. Now, the challenge is to get products to end users and this is a monumental task because multi-national companies spend more money on marketing than on development, distribution and manufacturing put together.
With your help, this range of products could find its way to making it easier for people in emergency situations to handle water, and help to break the cycle of infection.
CEO and founder Aquaid Co.
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