Hitting the Trifecta Part 2 — How clean water changes the game in impoverished communities

Trifecta – a type of bet, especially on horse races, in which the bettor must select the first three finishers in exact order.

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced Hunger Relief International’s concept of providing a water filter, latrine, and safe cookstove to a single household as a means of significantly improving outcomes in that household. We call this idea the “Trifecta”. The payoff, in terms of health outcomes, is far greater than a winning trifecta ticket could ever be at the horse track! Part 1 was all about setting the scene for WHY there is such a great need in the rural communities of southern Guatemala, but HRI implements the Trifecta in Haiti as well.


Parts 2-4 of the series will explain each component of the Trifecta in detail. As you read the explanations of each of the 3 components, I think you will begin to see just why HRI’s Trifecta can be such a game-changer for every family that benefits from it.


Trifecta Component #1 – Water Filter/Clean Water. The water where I live tastes pretty awful. After we had lived here for a couple of years, we invested in a water softener to remove all of the minerals that make the water taste funny. The result was that we can turn on the tap and get a glass of water that we don’t mind drinking. But here’s the thing: At NO time has the water in my community ever been a risk for making people sick. Our major complaint was that it tasted funny!


In Guatemala and in Haiti, as a general rule, you can’t drink the water. Period. Not only is it a problem in the rural communities of the south, but if you go into a nice hotel in Guatemala City, you will see signs in the bathroom, right next to a bottle of water, reminding you that it is not safe to drink the water from the tap. In the rural southern region of the country, not only can water be scarce in some communities, but the water that is available contains pathogens that make it unsafe to drink. This is the same for Haiti.


Diarrhea, a potentially deadly side effect of drinking contaminated water, is a symptom of an infection caused by bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms, many of which are found in contaminated water. Diarrhea is the second-leading cause of child death worldwide in children under the age of 5 (World Health Organization). In other words, something that for us is uncomfortable and maybe embarrassing is one of the leading killers of children of all ages.


To put this further in perspective, consider this: Every day, 6,000 children die due to water-borne illness (UNICEF). Nearly 2 BILLION people get their drinking water from a source contaminated with human and/or animal feces (World Health Organization). This means that not only young children are impacted by contaminated drinking water but entire communities!

It smelled as bad as it looked.

The same water, after being filtered!


In the villages where Hunger Relief International serves, I have seen – and smelled – water that is completely indigestible. And yet, there often isn’t another choice available for people. The water can be purified by boiling or by bleach, but less than half of the people I’ve talked to do anything to purify their water. After all, boiling enough water each day for an entire family to use is a time-consuming undertaking. It also takes a tremendous amount of wood which is a scarce and valuable commodity. Using bleach is easier, but it also requires precision and costs money that they don’t have. Chances are good that if either of these measures is being taken, the procedures are not as precise as needed. So, people are dealing with the consequences of drinking contaminated water: chronic sickness.


Imagine the last time you had a stomach ache. You spent more time in the bathroom than you would have liked, and you probably had some medicine that helped you with the symptoms. After a day or two, you were back to normal. Now, imagine that the stomachache was caused by bacteria in the water you were drinking. You can’t stay ahead of diarrhea by drinking more water because you continue to ingest the thing that got you sick in the first place! Imagine how hard it would be for this to be a regular part of your daily life.

Our team offers training on how to maintain water filters, which can help a filter last up to 10 years!


Water filters change everything! HRI uses a portable water filter that attaches to a 5-gallon bucket. This filter is capable of purifying up to 150 gallons of water PER DAY and will last 10 years if it is properly maintained. (Maintenance is easy, and we provide training to remind people of how to maintain their filters — both in Guatemala and in Haiti.)


When the water is not safe, hand washing isn’t an effective method for preventing the spread of bacteria and pathogens. This means that whatever is on your hands can be reintroduced to your body if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. This sanitation issue leads us to another sanitation issue: Uncontained human waste in the environment. We will take a closer look at Component #2 of the Trifecta, latrines, in the next installment of this series.


Help HRI raise clean water awareness! Share this article with the hashtags: #cleanwater #water #waterfilter #sustainability #drinkingwater #health #waterislife #safewater


Written by Trey Williams, HRI Community Liaison


NEXT: Hitting the Trifecta Part 3 – How latrines impact personal health through improved sanitation.



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