Water Flows into Bangladeshi Slums

In Dhaka, Banglafesh's capitol on track to become one of the world's biggest cities, hundreds of thousands of people fill in the urban fabric each year. Most end up in the slum communities -- crowded shantytowns without water or sanitation facilities. Often these are government lands usurped by "influential people," mafiosi-like business and political elite who then rent them out to newcomers.

We visited one such community where DSK, a local NGO with funding from Damon's organization focused on water and sanitation in India and Bangladesh), provides microloans for facilities like latrines and water pumps. Huddled with more than a dozen people into a small single room beneath a corrugated metal roof in the summer heat, we listened as one community member outlined the illnesses in the slum, including scabies and waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery. Under the terms of the loan, a committee was formed (including women in prominent roles to empower them) and charged with identifying the illnesses in the community and carrying out health and sanitation education seminars. As we watched, the designated health worker laid out illustrations showing proper sanitation practices for cooking, cleaning, and washing, and she quizzed the group opn their hygiene practices.

Before the water pump and latrine were built, people had to leave the neighborhood in search of someone with a connection to the city water main in and pay them to fill up the buckets. With a loan of roughly $1500, they now had water and sanitation facilities within a few steps of the door.