EDGE Outreach works to end cholera in Haiti

Posted by Amy Kelch - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - January 12 marked the one year anniversary of one of the most deadly natural disasters in human history. A magnitude seven earthquake rocked Haiti and killed more than 200,000 people. The fragile island nation was left in ruins.

In the wake of 2010's catastrophe, Haiti is facing another biological disaster that experts fear could be worse. However, one Louisville group is working to save lives.

The new killer stalking the survivors is cholera. Bob Browning and his Louisville based organization, EDGE Outreach, spend months at a time in Haiti, working to teach its residents how to purify their water.

"The cholera outbreak has added insult to injury there," said Browning, field operations director of EDGE Outreach. "Over 3,000 people have died now. It's infected scores of others and is, of course, a water borne disease. So it makes what EDGE Outreach has done even more needed and more compelling."

One solution to cholera is chlorination.

"This simple process of chlorination," said Mark Hogg, executive director of EDGE Outreach, "to kill bacteria and parasites in the water can alleviate cholera as a water borne disease."

EDGE Outreach essentially builds a mini water treatment plant that can be carried in a suitcase and set up anywhere in the world.

"Through the water available," said Hogg, "a car battery and a handful of salt, we can actually produce chlorine gas, inject it in the water and produce pure water at the rate of 55 gallons a minute."

Browning describes Haiti as "another world," even though its only two and a half hours outside of  Miami, FL.

"Everything is more difficult there," said Browning. "What it's done for me is made me appreciate what I have."

EDGE Outreach has sent more than 100 volunteers to Haiti in the past year. Almost thirty water purification systems have been set up in and around the capital city, Port-au-Prince.

"We exist to help Haitian people take bad water and make it safe to drink." said Browning.

However, teaching the locals to use and maintain the systems is key to success.

The project funded largely by Louisville donors. EDGE received over $600,000 from groups and individuals in the past year alone. The opportunities to do more are endless, as death is a constant companion for those struggling to survive in Haiti.

"Once cholera is introduced," said Browning, "and gets into the rivers and the water table, it can stay there for decades before it really comes out. The solution to that is making sure the water that comes out of the ground is filtered or chlorinated so the bacteria that causes cholera won't be present."

EDGE Outreach doesn't just serve Haiti. The organization has been working since 2001 in 17 developing nations around the world.

"Gathering together we can save lives," said Hogg. "We believe that the greatest problem in the world of water can be solved by ordinary people."

If you'd like to make a donation or volunteer with EDGE Outreach, call them at 568-6342.

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