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ON THE SCENE: Health care on the global stage

September 28, 2018
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

The water crisis and empowering women are two topics highlighted at C3 2018, "Moving Healthcare, Commerce and Philanthropy beyond Bilateral Borders," the sixth summit on international cooperation on health and commerce with the Middle East, held at the Union League Club of New York Monday, Sept. 24.

Water quality is not taken for granted in the Adirondacks, as exemplified by the growing efforts to curb invasive species through cleaning motorboats, the Shore Owners Association's annual pumping of septic systems on Lake Placid, and AdkAction's efforts to reduce the use of salt on roadways each winter, especially by the New York State Department of Transportation. Yet when you consider the expanding algae blooms on Lake Champlain, the sheer volume of salt poured on Route 73 alone - so much so that it's polluted Keene's groundwater and wells of many homes located along the highway - and that Mirror Lake is coming close to becoming a "dead lake," one that doesn't turn over annually, we are by no means ready to sing our praises.

The more significant problem is what's happening outside the Blue Line, as indicated by the reality that for women and children it's not safe to eat more than one fish a month caught in our lakes and streams, an outcome of mercury poisoning from air pollutants drifting in the Midwest. The sad truth is we humans are drowning our lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans in plastic, chemicals, feces and other pollutants, and as a result severely impacting the health of all life on earth.

Article Photos

The Rev. Danny Thomas, founder of Water for the World, demonstrates a machine that cleans water by breaking apart its hydrogen and oxygen atoms at the C3 summit Monday, Sept. 24 in New York City. Provided photo — Naj Wikoff

Consider this: 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waterways each year. Further, 40 percent of the lakes in our country are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life or swimming, and the 1.5 metric tons of nitrogen pollution carried annually into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River has created a dead zone the size of New Jersey.

Worldwide water pollution has gotten so bad that it sickens over 1 billion people annually, resulting in the deaths of one child every 25 seconds. This statistic caused pastor Danny Thomas of Tacoma, Washington, one of the featured presenters at C3, to devote his life to providing the poorest of the poor access to potable water, along with teaching people how to protect their water resources.

Twelve years ago, Thomas was pastoring a church in Tacoma that organized a food bank that delivered food to 7,000 people a month. Through acquiring a secondhand forklift, he met a person who was raising money to purchase biosand filtration units for use in Africa. He told Thomas that a child dies every 90 seconds as an outcome of not having access to potable water. Thomas and his congregation then expanded their mission to fund biosand units. Four years ago, the death rate of children had doubled. Thomas realized that at the pace we humans were befouling the environment, it is impossible to get on top of the problem; he needed another solution, a process that could clean water quicker than biosand, clear out a far greater array of pollutants, and was affordable. His quest led him to a Canadian engineering think tank for social causes and to the inventor Timm Finrock.

"The short story is that we pull apart water," said Finrock. "We break hydrogen and oxygen bond. We create such an energy explosion in our chamber that the water disintegrates. When that happens, it releases hydrogen and oxygen, and the pollutants that were in that water have nothing to stick to, so they fall out, becoming suspended solids. When the two gases leave the chamber, they recombine instantly to form pure water, then all we have to do is run it through a filter to clean out any particulates."

Finn said that their method uses the same process as our sun. Water is evaporated, comes down as rain and gets filtered by the soil, ending up in our aquifers, lakes and streams. The problem is our earth's water filter is becoming clogged because of the ground contamination along with crap we dump into our waterways. The unit he devised is about the size of a suitcase, uses solar power and produces pure water at the cost of about 8 cents a liter. It's also remarkably fast. No less surprising is how it can turn the most disgusting looking and smelling water into a liquid that looks and tastes as if it was drawn from a pure Adirondack spring.

"The number-one killer of children worldwide is cholera, and number two is typhoid," said Thomas. "But there are 3,000 other diseases in the invisible world of water." He then talked about the toll of getting water has on children, especially girls. Starting about age 9, an age when most are now strong enough to carry two jerry cans of water, girls are required to walk an average of 6 kilometers a day twice a day fetching water for their home. These girls are taken out of school, given this task which they must continue until they have babies of their own who have grown old enough to take over this task from their mothers.

"For me, the benefit of what we do is we put kids back in school," said Thomas, founder of Water for the World. "We give them the ability to start learning and broadening their horizons, either through their education or traveling beyond 6 kilometers to a watering hole."

Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International and a well-known TV host in Iraq, moderated a six-woman panel of experts from Tunisia to Afghanistan. The diversity of experiences range from Tunisia, where for four decades women have been guaranteed by law equal pay for equal work, to Afghanistan, where the life of young girls mirrors those expressed by Thomas. A common refrain was that we in the West should not typecast or see all Muslims or Arabs through a single lens, and that there is a need to change the narrative of how we treat and portray women, be it through our actions, words or in the media.

They discussed the plight of women refugees, who make up nearly half of all refugees, who along with their children had often been abandoned by their spouse - yet only 4 percent of U.N. appeals are directed to assist them. They said these women live in fear of rape and other forms of violence, and struggle to find work in a culture where women are not allowed to interact with men, cutting out opportunities in the hospitality and health care industries. The panelist challenged those in the audience to provide training and work opportunities for women in the region and to invest in crafts and other artifacts created by women. Dr. Rana Hajjeh, the director of communicable disease for the World Health Organization, further called on Western nations to help rebuild the hospitals and clinics destroyed during the Gulf wars.



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