Monday, December 20, 2004

PVC drinking tubes are saving lives in Sudan

About 400 Hydro Polymers staff at a plastics plant in England agreed to give-up a proportion of their salary as part of an initiative run by the company's Norwegian-owned parent company to purchase special PVC drinking straws for use in Sudan.

The staff were moved when they heard of the plight of thousands of Sudanese children who suffer from Guinea worm. The disease is prevalent in Sudan and is contracted from drinking water, contaminated with microscopic fleas. The cash is being used to part-fund a Guinea worm eradication programme in the African country.

About a year after the victim drinks infected water, one or more worms emerge through the skin. They can be up to one metre long and can take weeks to fully emerge through blisters on the skin. The illness can leave those affected completely or partially disabled.

The straws have special filters that prevents the intake of harmful bugs when drinking from infected water. So far donations have been used to purchase 450,000 pipe filters.

Dr Jason Leadbitter of Hydro Polymers, said: "It is very rewarding to know that the efforts of our staff can make such a significant contribution to improving the quality of life for people thousands of miles away. It is very impressive how a simple PVC pipe can play a huge benefit to the social welfare of these people."

The PVC drinking tubes are saving lives in Sudan
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Treating the sick in Darfur

As the plane flew over the refugee camps of Darfur, in the Sudan, Morven Murchison Lochrie was amazed by their size. Mile after mile of blue plastic sheeting form temporary shelter for over a million displaced people. Looking at the camps, she began to realise just how great her challenge would be - co-ordinating the Red Cross health operations in the area.

A woman and child at the hospital in Darfur, pictures ICRC

As an experienced aid worker she had steeled herself to expect distressing scenes. But the sheer scale of the tragedy unfolding in Darfur took her breath away. She said, "When you are flying over the camps you think 'so many people'. Just the size of it takes you back. And the fact is that people have walked so far just to get help in the camps. It is the worst population movement that I have seen. The overwhelming image of the situation is that it is bad, even compared to other places in Africa. It is a massive displacement of about 1.5 million people and it is an increasing burden on a poor country." [Full Story]

"If people forget about Darfur there will be trouble" - Morven Murchison Lochrie

NGO latest: Darfur is a tinderbox of war, dread and very little hope.

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