A special ‘medicine’ protects family from waterborne illness

Betty and her children have to rely on filthy water from a pond three miles away that often made them sick. But thanks to a simple product known as PUR, this family can now quickly turn a bucket of disgusting water into one that is clean, safe, and lasts the whole day.

By Abby Metty, World Vision U.S.
Published August 1, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

At just 9, sponsored child David Mundu carries a big responsibility in his family of five siblings. It’s his job to make sure his whole family has clean, safe drinking water. He does this using a product called PUR™ from Procter & Gamble, which treats the dirty water and makes it safe to drink.

David’s mother, Betty, fetches water from a pond about three miles from their home. “The water is green. It smells like mud,” she says.

“Before we treated the water, we suffered from cholera,” says David, who was hospitalized last year for diarrhea. “I was feeling pain inside.”

The ‘medicine’

Rarely do they call the product “PUR.” Instead, they refer to it as "medicine,” highlighting the way in which it has helped them.

“The water I was using was not fit for the family because it was dirty, but I didn’t have a way to make it clean,” says Betty. “Before the medicine, we used ash to put in the water and the sediment settled down; then, we used a sieve and then it was clear.”

Despite this process, the sickly green color remained. So did the invisible bacteria that was making them ill. “It still smelled muddy after using the ash,” she says.

A new solution

But in January, David’s older brother, Shukrani, 17, brought home from school little sachets of the “medicine” that would save his family from further bouts of waterborne illness. World Vision funded the distribution of the PUR product, which is donated by corporate partner Procter & Gamble.

As Shukrani showed the family how to purify the water using the small packets, David took an interest and volunteered for this daily responsibility.

Now, David has a thorough knowledge of the process. “You cut the medicine [sachet] and put it in water,” he explains. “Then you stir for five minutes, leave it to settle for five minutes, then you sieve and leave the water to settle for 20 minutes. Then, you throw the sediments away.”

The process of producing safe water

After explaining, he cuts open the PUR sachet and shakes it into the ugly green water. As he stirs, the impure particles separate from the water, swirling around in the bucket.

After five minutes of stirring, clumps of an algae-like material fall to the bottom of the bucket. David waits another five minutes before straining the water through a cloth — receiving his mother’s assistance to lift the heavy bucket, which contains 10 liters of water — and pours it into a new bucket. Twenty more minutes pass, and PUR works to kill the remaining bacteria. The water now looks clean and clear.

David dips a cup into the bucket to get a drink of clean water. There is no trace of the murky, bacteria-ridden liquid that filled it just half an hour before. These 10 liters will provide enough water for the family for the whole day.

‘The medicine protects my family’

Betty confides that she was skeptical when Shukrani first brought the PUR sachets home from school. “At first, I thought it was a lie,” she says. “But, after using it, I saw the result and I proved it was working.”

She says PUR has brought wonderful change in their family. “When we started using the medicine, the rate at which the family members were falling sick was reduced,” she says.

David agrees. “The water is clean,” he says. “The medicine protects my family from cholera. It is good for drinking and for washing utensils and cleaning yourself.”

World Vision is working on water projects in this area, with the ultimate goal of making clean water a way of life, not a luxury.

In the meantime, Betty says, “The job of PUR is to protect us from diseases.” By the look on David’s healthy, smiling face, this product is doing just that.

Learn more

Read more about World Vision’s efforts to establish greater access to clean water in communities in need.

Three ways you can help

Thank God that David and his family now has access to clean, safe drinking water. Pray for other families like his who still lack access to this basic, life-giving resource.

Make a one-time gift to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund. Your donation will help provide critical interventions like deep wells, piping systems, water purification equipment, storage tanks, hygiene stations, and more in places where lack of access to clean water intensifies poverty.

Give monthly to support World Vision’s water projects around the world. Your monthly pledge will help reach even more communities where clean water access is still needed.