Houses submerged entirely in floodwaters. Whole villages leveled by winds gusting more than 160 miles per hour. These are often the images that come to mind when we think about the devastation caused by a hurricane in a poor country like Nicaragua.
But the deadliest part of a hurricane is actually something that rarely makes it to the front-page headlines: a water supply contaminated by raw sewage and other pollutants. This water can cause cholera, typhoid and dysentery. These illnesses are often fatal for babies and young children. In the Indigenous communities we work with in Nicaragua, children and babies die of waterborne diseases every year, especially during hurricane season.
Now we have a way to prevent these needless deaths. MADRE has a solution that uses simple but powerful technology. This summer, we tested three HydroWell Village water filtration systems in Nicaragua for one month. The results were solid. The filtration system uses a process known as forward osmosis to transform polluted water into clean drink without an external power source. The fluid produced is enhanced with electrolytes. These dissolved minerals can help people recover from dehydration and malnutrition.
Our partners on the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua live in the path of frequent and ferocious hurricanes. Because it's hurricane season right now, we're working to ensure that our sisters have immediate access to safe drinking water before the next storm strikes.
Empowering Indigenous Women
We are working with Wangki Tangni, our long-time sister organization, to train women to operate and maintain the new water filtration systems. In Nicaragua, as in most developing countries, women are responsible for securing water and using it to cook, clean, wash clothes, grow food and care for children and the sick and elderly. Yet, too often, development projects ignore women's critical role in water resource management, designating men to implement and manage water-related projects. We have a better approach: one that ensures a life-saving resource for the community while working to uphold the rights of women.