Achievements of Chemists Without Borders Bangladesh Arsenic Education Project

Since September 2014, I have been managing the Chemists Without Borders team in Bangladesh.  We started with a team of part time interns, all graduates of the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh.  We had the objective of seeing whether we could work effectively with high schools to educate the students, and through them, their families about the health hazards of arsenic in drinking water.
Figure 1. Arsenic Education team (from the left): Monira Sultana, Nishat Raihana, Taslima Khanam, Anowara Begum, Shahena Begum.  

We worked with six high schools and found the students to be very interested in our message, with high attendance and lots of questions at our presentations.  Also, at each school, we had many volunteers to make measurements of arsenic concentration at wells near the schools.  Our team trained the students how to make the measurements and gave them the test kits.  As a result, we got arsenic concentration measurements at 20 to 30 wells in the neighborhoods of most of the schools. We found that two of the schools, Sitakunda High School, and Teriail High School, had very high arsenic concentrations (150ppb) at the school wells. This was a surprise result for the students and the teachers at these schools.  They didn’t realize that they had been drinking water contaminated with arsenic.

Figure 2. Skin effects by drinking arsenic contaminated water.

A detailed report on our work during Stage 1 of our project (Sept 2014 through Dec. 2014) can be found on our Indiegogo site. Since January 2015, our work in Bangladesh has been led by Anowara Begum and Shahena Begum, and their priority has been to form partnerships and funding relationships so that the project can be sustainable on a long term basis. They have been joined for two months this summer by Adam Cooper, an American student from Stetson University in Florida.

Accomplishments so far have been:

1. Several Bangladesh Rotary Clubs have agreed to fund the replacement of arsenic contaminated wells at the two high schools discovered in Stage 1 of the project, and this will bring clean water to 4000 people.

2. HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh has asked our team to investigate wells contaminated with organic matter in their region, which has caused a number of people to become ill.  We will also meet with their director for midwife training to discuss including our arsenic presentation in their midwife training.

3. Agami, a Bay Area organization that supports a number of schools in Bangladesh, has asked us to meet with their team in Dhaka and with teachers at schools in the Chittagong region to discuss our providing an extended course on health education to students in their schools.

4. A prominent newspaper in Bangladesh, Prothom Alo, has published an article on our work in the local language, Bangla.

5. On August 2, our American student, Adam, will be interviewed on a Bangladesh national TV program about Chemists Without Borders and our work in education and health improvement in Bangladesh.

I’d like to invite anyone who has our interest in our work or who might like to support it by volunteering or making a financial contribution to contact me at:
Ray Kronquist

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