The Corruption of Water

The first plague affected the entire water supply of Egypt.

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During the summers, the boreholes in the highland areas dry up, and people in those regions need to pay to take buses to the town to acquire water, which they must then carry home for their families. The transport of water for family use is a task that falls disproportionately on young women and girls, often consuming hours of their day and preventing them from attending school.

Giving Access to Clean Water

The biblical text indicates that Moses and Aaron did not end the plague of blood. In many ways, this task has been left to us. Thankfully, today there are numerous ways to ensure that communities have access to clean drinking water. Organizations such as Partners in Health and Lifewater International have developed novel latrine designs suited to various communities in the Global South, and have created educational programs to encourage the development of effective sanitation programs within those communities.

There are also many new technologies that ease water purification and transportation, including inexpensive filters that can purify water of contaminants down to the scale of cholera-causing bacteria. Some of these products have been developed by communities that need them. Both the Hippo Roller and AquaPort were invented by Africans to alleviate the time-intensive labor of hauling water.

All of these programs are excellent solutions, but remain just a start. Contaminated water sources and diarrheal disease are not "sexy" issues, and don't get the same press as other urgent world crises such as the genocide in Darfur or AIDS. But they are no less devastating--indeed, perhaps they are even more so--in terms of loss of life and productivity. We need to raise awareness about the magnitude of water contamination worldwide, and continue working to improve access to clean drinking water for communities still facing this plague.

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Aviva Presser Aiden

Aviva Presser Aiden is a student at Harvard Medical School. She co-founded Bears Without Borders, an organization fostering economic opportunities among developing-world artisans, and is co-founder and CTO of Lebone, a social enterprise developing microbial fuel cells as an off-grid energy and lighting solution for Africa.