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Keep A Child Alive Client Tells the Seven Wonders of PUR

January 20, 2011

I learned about the humanitarian group Keep A Child Alive (KCA) several years ago when Marc Pritchard, P&G CMO, introduced me to Leigh Blake, the President and Founder.  Actually, I'd heard a little about KCA before that because of the work of KCA's celebrity ambassadors Alicia Keys and Iman.  After discussing potential collaboration with Leigh and Iman at two Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meetings, we agreed to start working together at last year's CGI.

KCA is dedicated to providing treatment, support, and care for children and families who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.  As we shared with Leigh what we were learning about the life-saving potential of the PUR packets for people with HIV/AIDS, she became interested in providing PUR in the clinic they support in Uganda.

This morning I'm greeted by Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya and her husband Dr. Adebiyi Ogunsanya who together manage Alive Medical Services, the clinic supported primarily through KCA.  They drive me to the Namuwongo slum in Kampala.

Dr. Pasquine started providing PUR in her clinic about nine months ago, and this summer I received a note from Dr. Pasquine and Jennifer Singleton, the Director of Development at KCA.  Here's an excerpt:

"Among clients who receive PUR, the incidence of diarrhea has been reduced by more than 50%, keeping hundreds of people from acquiring further illness as a cause of contaminated water. Those who have used PUR are immediately gratified. Clients of Alive value PUR and are so grateful for it, they know that it is improving their lives and the lives of their children.  We cannot thank you enough for working with us to give people their lives back." Of course, after receiving a note like this, I'm eager to visit the program.  We arrive at a clinic that is completely filled with people seeking care.  They've come not only from the surrounding slum but from all over Uganda to seek this free care for their disease.  As Dr. Pasquine and Dr. Adebiyi guide me through the clinic, I'm amazed at how they effectively use every bit of space.  Their efforts have grown dramatically since 2004 when they had only 6 clients.  Now they treat an amazing 7,000 people with HIV/AIDS!

We have a touching moment when we meet Habte, an infant that was recently abandoned but has now found care.  He's in pretty bad shape but the antiretroviral therapy that he's receiving will help him regain strength very quickly.

Dr. Pasquine has incorporated providing the PUR packets into their nutrition feeding program for about 2,000 of their most vulnerable clients.  People usually need the most care right after they are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS before the antiretroviral therapy begins to have a positive impact.  Because they provide PUR for the entire family and not only the client, they'll reach about 18,000 people with clean drinking water.

The food distribution includes sacks of sugar, beans, and rice along with a container of cooking oil.  These are piled into the courtyard and dispensed hundreds at a time, and then the process starts again all through the day.  To make sure everyone knows how to properly use PUR, they see a demonstration while they're waiting to see the physician and obtain their medication. Dr. Pasquine had told some of the clients that I was visiting and so they've made signs to show their appreciation.  I've witnessed this kind of reception before from school children, but never in a clinic with adults.

Dr. Pasquine asks me if I'll answer questions from the group of several hundred clients and I'm thrilled to do so.  Many people ask questions and many provide voluntarily testimonials of their positive experience.  One man's experience is very clear from his sign:  "No Diarrhea." Another man named John tells me that he has a family of nine.  He's HIV positive and had persistent diarrhea before using PUR.  Now that his family is using PUR to treat their water, there's not been any diarrhea.

KCA no diarrhea 2 The most amazing testimony is from a woman who has written what she calls the "Seven Wonders of PUR".  Dr. Pasquine's look of amazement matches mine when this client reads her well thought out list of the benefits.  I, of course, took notes. Seven Wonders of PUR (with my editorial comments in parenthesis):

1. PUR makes us free from opportunistic infections.  We do not get waterborne disease now. 2. We save money by not buying charcoal to boil water (note that charcoal price is now very expensive in Uganda). 3. PUR water has natural taste (quite an astute observation as unlike boiling or filtering, PUR does not remove the natural minerals). 4. One packet of PUR makes enough clean water for the entire family for a day or two. 5. We have very nice containers to make PUR water (Alive provided 2 buckets, a cloth, and a stirrer for each family). 6. PUR is easy to prepare even for us who are very sickly. 7. Because we are not boiling, we are not risking scalding of our children.

After visiting the clinic, Dr. Pasquine and Dr. Adebiyi take me deep into the slum to visit the homes of the clients.  As is typical, the further you walk from the road into the slum, the more primitive the conditions.  We wind our way through the narrow alleys between homes being careful not to step into sewage.

People are living in small wooden huts with tin roofs.  Helen Tamara is one of the clients of the clinic.  I can stretch my arms and almost reach each side of her small hut that she shares with her two teenage boys.  As we talk, Dr. Adbiyi has to stand outside because there's only room for 3 people to stand in the hut.

Helen tells us that she was very weak before starting to use PUR and receive the food supplement.  She tells us that she's okay now and is making money by frying and selling fish beside the road.  She shows us the clean water made with PUR in the container provided by the clinic and she tells us that the PUR-treated water is good. As we walk to the next hut it starts to rain very hard.  I wonder why everyone is washing their clothes in the rain and then I figure it out.  They're washing clothes now because now they have water that they've collected from the rain!  It's really pouring so we duck into the home of Majab Kimberemba and her daughter Moulana.

Majab is a 45 year old mother of 7 children.  We have a nice long conversation with her.  There's certainly no rush to get back out into the rain.  It's raining so hard that the tin roof starts to leak.  Her hut is a little larger than Helen's and has a small couch, a chair, and a bunk bed.  There's room for all 5 of us in the hut with me and Dr. Adibiyi sitting very close together on the couch.  Majab notices that I'm getting wet and hands us an umbrella that Dr. Adibiyi patiently holds for us.

We sit and first talk about small items.  We learn that her rent has recently increased to $15 per month now that she has electricity.  She's been feeling strong but is recovering from being hit by a motorcycle as she walked down the road.  Majab sells peanuts and juice and has joined a micro-finance group.  All of her children besides 8 year old Moulana have grown and left.  They're also struggling so they can't provide much support for their mother.  Moulana tells us that her dream is to become a pilot.  She's good in math and has wanted to be a pilot ever since one visited her school.

Majab lost her husband to HIV/AIDS and when he became sick she discovered she also had the virus.  Her first symptoms were sores in her mouth, a loss of appetite, and diarrhea.  She tells us that the diarrhea that she gets now is much different than before she was HIV positive.  It includes very severe stomach pain and persistent and severe diarrhea.

She tells me that PUR has really changed her life and she has no stomach pains or diarrhea.  She says it gives her dignity because now she can make her own safe water.  She takes her antiretroviral therapy with the PUR-treated water and trusts it.  She says she can't afford charcoal to boil her water.  I swallow hard when she tells me what she'd do without PUR.  "Without PUR, I'd have to drink the dirty water and I'd likely die".

By now the rains have ended, and it's time for us to leave.  On the way back to the clinic, Dr. Pasquine tells me that PUR is a great addition to their support and care for people with HIV/AIDS.  I tell her that I'm very impressed with the efficiency of their program and what a blessing she and her husband are for this community.  It's an amazing program and I'm thrilled that we're working together.

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