Archive - December 2011

submitted by defeatDD
12/22/2011 at 16:11

A new year begins in just a few days! But before we plunge ahead into 2012, we'd like to take a look back at the most popular blogs of 2011, determined by you, our readers.


5. Celebrate Global Handwashing Day with a free poster: Because what’s not to love about colorful educational materials?


4.  My family’s battle with chronic diarrhea: Adopted from Ethiopia, little Ash (pictured above) was able to get the care he needed, but too many children aren’t so lucky.


3. Talking about poop: lessons learned in South Africa: Stephanie Ogden of Water For People overcomes taboo to remind us that “bowel movements are barometers of well-being.”


2. Lend your voice for safe water and sanitation: On World Water Day, PATH’s president was thrilled to see momentum building for safe water and sanitation. But the stakes remain high, and we need your voice.


1. Congratulations to winning poo-ets: The contest that had the Twitter-sphere on the edge of their seats.


We’d like to send a big thank you to all our excellent guest bloggers of 2011. If you have an idea – or you’re already eyeing a top 5 ranking for our 2012 reader favorites – send us a message.

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Flush this Book cover
submitted by Heidi R. Willis
12/19/2011 at 12:01

A mutual friend introduced us at a karaoke girls’ night in party, “You guys are both writers.”

Heidi was writing a screenplay, Jane was writing a family memoir. 

We started meeting to critique one another’s manuscripts, and a deep friendship was born.  No topic was off-limits, and that included bodily functions.  During our critique sessions, one of us would inevitably have to leave to go to the bathroom—this was probably because our sessions were fueled by lots of water, sushi and crab Rangoon.  In the toilet, we would experience ‘Eureka’ moments for how to improve the other’s work—and more often than not, we’d also return with a full report on our lunch’s encore. 

“Dude, I just crapped an entire helping of seaweed salad in there. I’m never getting that again.”

We joked about writing a book that revolved around going to the bathroom.  It wasn’t long before we realized it was a fantastically funny idea.  After taking a seminar with Jack Canfield, we were inspired to seek out nonprofits that fit our subject matter and our sensibilities.  The World Toilet Organization and DefeatDD fit the bill.

We launched our book in November to coincide with World Toilet Day and were stunned by the response our book received. Even people who don’t talk openly about what happens in those moments can appreciate a good shit story.  Poop is the common denominator of the human experience.  Making people laugh, while at the same time raising funds to ensure that more people can address that common denominator with dignity, is incredibly rewarding.  We’re so grateful for this experience.   

To learn more about Heidi and Jane and their project visit their website:


For more information:

- Check out our photos from World Toilet Day for even more books about poo!

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submitted by Deborah Phillips
12/07/2011 at 10:56

By the second open-air hospital, I knew better than to look for water fountains. The sealed plastic  bottles conspicuously tucked into each cup-holder in our Ministry-provided, four-wheel-driven convoy were a pretty strong hint, too. Where we were headed, running water was a luxury. This was not my norm. I was a stranger here, warmly welcomed but still alien.

Furiously scribbling second-hand translations whispered into my ear, I tried to capture the achievements of a two-year diarrheal disease control project at its close. I asked in English, doctors and provincial officials answered in Vietnamese. Language largely separated us, but some things went beyond words. A clinic director proudly pointed to a chart on the wall. A stoic record reflected the frequency but not the anxiety of visits by parents with children suffering from diarrhea. The director and her chart showed me two things: The clinic was now routinely and reliably reporting diarrhea cases to the district—and those cases were dramatically dropping. Furthermore, she was part of a pilot project in Binh Dinh province, along Vietnam’s eastern coast. Her experience would ultimately benefit the entire country, and perhaps even farther throughout the Mekong region.

The gorgeous landscape of rural Vietnam.

Low and lush mountains peeked from the edges of the landscape as we scaled stairs to the second floor of the Binh Dinh Provincial Hospital. Caught up in capturing sights and sounds, I worried as young photo subjects refused to smile back at me. In a roomful of other parents, their mothers would toss me shy but knowing smiles amid focused attention to a nurse describing the lifesaving simplicity of oral rehydration solution (ORS). Sheepishly, I remembered that these children were themselves recovering from severe dehydration. No one wants to smile when they’re sick!

Binh Dinh hospital was a leader in PATH’s pilot project to demonstrate both benefits and challenges of putting new diarrhea guidelines into practice. Bridging policy with community health delivery, a multi-faceted effort updated clinical practice with relatively new tools like low-osmolarity ORS and zinc. Aware of these interventions but not yet applying them, physicians eagerly added them to prevention and treatment regimens once the Ministry of Health gave its formal sanction.

Dr. Le Quang Hung, deputy director of the Binh Dinh Department of Health, was excited by how the  taste of zinc made it easy to administer to discerning, cranky toddlers. He offered me a dose: a fat, white pill and a small glass of water drawn from a nearby cooler. I swallowed the thing whole. “This is easy to administer?” I asked him between a grimace and follow-up gulps to finish off my glass of water. “How can kids swallow something so big?” He held back laughter but a small smirk escaped. Silly stranger, the zinc tablet dissolves in the water….

Dr. Hung graciously shows me how to prepare a dose of zinc.

I was there in it—watching firsthand how our project increased awareness and empowered health workers. I was listening to the head nurse’s spiel at an Oral Rehydration Therapy corner; I interviewed mothers;  I choked down a zinc tablet whole. This was not my norm. I was out of water, figuratively and nearly literally. But I felt so lucky to see this work in action.

If you’d like to see more, visit our Flickr site for my full photo set!

-- Deborah Phillips is a Communications Officer for defeatDD at PATH

For more information:

-- It takes several partners to build the bridge between health and policy. Learn more about the challenges and ultimate success of this pilot project in Vietnam.

-- In July, Vietnam's Ministry of Health officially listed zinc as an essential drug for the treatment of diarrhea: a major milestone for child health.

-- View photos of our work in Vietnam.


Photo credits: PATH/Deborah Phillips

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submitted by Renuka Bery
12/01/2011 at 09:48

You may think that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is superfluous when addressing the needs of people living with HIV, but actually it is a critically important focus that has only recently gained recognition.

Many life-threatening opportunistic infections are caused by exposure to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Diarrhea is a very common symptom that affects 90 percent of people living with HIV and results in significant morbidity and mortality. Isn’t it ironic to wash down life-saving antiretroviral drugs with germ-laden water that causes diarrhea and reduces the drug’s effectiveness because it is not absorbed? Diarrheal disease also reduces the absorption of essential nutrients, increasing the risk of malnutrition and further exacerbating the impact of HIV on both children and adults.

Several countries with support from USAID are now embracing issues of WASH and HIV integration. Introducing WASH into an HIV-prevalent community also helps to reduce stigma because improving drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene practices makes everyone in the community healthier!

On a recent trip to Kenya to support a USAID/WASH and HIV integration program, I met a group of women widowed caring for children orphaned by HIV in Coast Province who decided to help each other build household latrines. The soil was rocky and many families said digging a latrine was nearly impossible in the rocky, dry soil. But these formidable women pooled their resources and made it happen. As one woman said, “If people can dig holes to bury people, they can do it for latrines.” Starting with the household most in need, they dug the hole, purchased the materials to support the pit structure and constructed the superstructure around the pit for privacy. When I visited almost half the women had latrines in their compound.

In Ethiopia a home-based care worker who had been trained in WASH-HIV integration activities took me around the community to see the progress they had made. I saw water-saving hand washing devices called tippy taps peeking through the bushes all around the community…even in households that were not served by these volunteers. One mother proudly showed me her latrine that had a strap the weak people of the household could hold onto to help them use the latrine. Her children demonstrated how he washed his hands with the tippy tap after coming out and the mother said that it reminds her children to wash their hands when they exit the latrine.

In Nyanza Province, Kenya an HIV positive woman said she was just waiting to rebuild her latrine after it collapsed because she has seen how much less diarrhea she and her family has suffered since building and using the latrine and drinking water treated with hypochlorite solution. She no longer drinks water directly from the river and she and her family take water from home to drink when they visit friends or go to school or work.

On this World AIDS Day, let us acknowledge the vital role safe water and proper hygiene have in keeping people living with HIV healthy and productive, and together let us advocate to include water, sanitation, and hygiene activities into a range of HIV programs: care and support, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, orphans and vulnerable children, and counseling and testing whenever possible.


-- Renuka Bery, WASH-HIV Integration Advisor WASHplus Project at FHI360


For more information:

-- Learn more about WASHplus and other projects that integrate services to improve health in "Join up, Scale up: How integration can defeat poverty and disease." (PDF, 760 KB)

-- Help us send the message to donors and policymakers that integration is key! Sign up to receive Health/WASH Network updates on the latest opportunities for communications and advocacy.


Photo credits: Renuka Bery, FHI360

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