How Pure Water for the World is Responding to the Zika Virus Outbreak

By: Alice Urban

Just over a month after the World Health Organization declared clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders in Latin America a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the Zika Virus outbreak remains in headlines around the globe. Puerto Rico is bracing for its own epidemic, the United States warned of Zika risk in Cuba ahead of President Obama’s historic visit, and more cases of the virus recently were reported in Alabama.

According to UNICEF, knowledge — in conjunction with mosquito-control measures — is the most powerful asset in halting the spread of the disease and protecting pregnant women. “We need to act fast to provide women and pregnant mothers with the information they need, and we need to engage with communities on how to stop the mosquito that is carrying and transmitting this virus,” said Dr. Heather Papowitz, UNICEF’s senior advisor for health emergencies. This includes educating households about how to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, particularly those associated with standing water.

At Pure Water for the World, we are proud to deliver programming and health education that is nimble and responsive; we make sure that our messaging adapts to emerging health risks and community needs. As Zika remains a threat to our partner communities in Haiti and Honduras, we are adapting our programming and training to educate communities about the virus.

Pure Water for the World’s Country Director in Haiti, Mario Andre, explains how the Haiti team is addressing Zika:

What specifically is Pure Water for the World doing to respond to the Zika outbreak in Haiti?

We are altering our education and training program to include information on the virus and how to limit individuals’ chances of contraction.

How does this response connect to existing environmental health and hygiene programming?

We already provide basic hygiene education and training. We will continue doing so, and we will broaden our scope of education and training to include specific instructions on how to identify environmental health concerns that allow the virus to propagate, what the symptoms are and how to get help. Our intention is to demonstrate a direct correlation to good hygiene and disease reduction.

How are the communities responding?

Our partner communities typically are rural and dispersed; they often are not informed of Zika or its symptoms. To a very large degree, the information that we are delivering to communities is new. Communities want to learn more and take actions to reduce their risk of infection.

What makes Pure Water for the World well positioned to do this work?  

We are well positioned to do this work because of the nature of our interventions. We primarily work in poor, rural areas where the people are amongst the most vulnerable in the world. We already have a strong, trusted presence with communities. We are experts in water, sanitation and hygiene: we provide services such as water quality testing, purification of water, and hygiene education. Because Zika propagates in water, we have in inherent obligation to educate families on proper storage mechanisms for their water.

In the mountainous region of Trojes, Honduras, there are no reported cases of Zika at this time. The Pure Water for the World education and training team in Honduras continues teaching best practices for environmental safety and safe storage and protection of water, which support controlling the possible propagation of the Aedes mosquito, which transmits Zika as well as other viruses.

Help Pure Water for the World continue to reach families and provide them with safe water and hygiene education that can help prevent the spread of the  Zika virus. A donation of only $300.00 can help reach an additional at-risk family in Haiti and Honduras with essential tools, training and support.

Facts about the Zika Virus

Zika fact sheet courtesy of International Child Care.