South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020

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July 2008 - Volume 5 - Issue 1


Fort Lauderdale Rotary Is Saving Lives in Africa with the "Lifestraw"

Take a moment and consider the role that fresh clean water plays in your daily life. You rise and drink a cool glass of water to slake your morning thirst. You take a hot shower, wash your hair and brush your teeth. Maybe you swallow a multivitamin with another sip of water. In the kitchen, you make a pot of coffee; perhaps you reconstitute a can of frozen orange juice or add boiling water to a packet of instant oatmeal for breakfast.

That’s just the first hour.

The average North American adult uses 60 to 90 gallons of fresh water each day for personal use and probably never gives a passing thought to the value of this essential substance. Water is so ubiquitous that we take it for granted, and waste quite a lot of it, too. But for one billion other members of the human family- one sixth of the world’s population - safe, clean water is routinely unavailable. They are forced to drink contaminated water that causes numerous preventable diseases such as cholera, typhoid, poliomyelitis, giardiasis, diarrhea, dysentery and gastroenteritis. At any given moment in time, half of the world’s poor are suffering from these water-borne diseases and 6000 will die every day. Most of them, approximately 4500, are infants and children. In fact, the number one killer in the world is not AIDS, cancer or heart disease – it is diarrhea, caused by bacteria. In Africa, more children die of diarrhea than AIDS, all because of the lack of access to safe water for drinking.

This is unacceptable, says Martin Brody, chairman of the Fort Lauderdale Rotary’s Clean Water project. "Without water, there is no life," he says. "Clean water is a fundamental necessity and people must have access to it. With Rotary International, we’re part of a global effort to eliminate half of the world’s unsafe drinking water problem by 2015." The drinking water crisis has been designated by the United Nations as a priority and is among their eight Millennium Development Goals, a global blueprint for addressing the needs of the world’s most impoverished people.

The Fort Lauderdale Rotarians are partners in an original approach to this international public health crisis, with a program that goes right to the front lines, to individuals with a dire and immediate need for water. The Rotary plans to provide millions of people with a simple, ingenious, and incredibly practical device called the Lifestraw.

The Lifestraw is a personal, portable, human-powered water filtration system that can be used by anyone, including infants, with the ability to suck. Invented in1996 by a European company called Vestergaard Frandsen, the Lifestraw is a plastic cylinder that filters and disinfects contaminated water, rendering it drinkable and safe. The device has no moving or replaceable parts and uses no electricity. The filtering function is triggered by creating a vacuum, pulling water through the filter and into the mouth. Just 25 centimeters long, the filters hang on a neck cord and cost a few dollars apiece. The Lifestraw kills common pathogens like salmonella, enterococcus, E. coli and staphylococcus and removes microorganisms that cause diarrhea and dysentery. The Fort Lauderdale Rotary is working closely with Vestergaard Frandsen and the Gates Foundation to develop a program that will facilitate distribution of the Lifestraw in three African nations: Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania. "By bringing safe drinking water to these nations, we will be bringing an end to much needless suffering," says Brody. "We are raising funds and Rotary International and the foundation will match the funds."

The Lifestraw will be distributed via the same network infrastructure used by the Wheelchair Foundation, another South Florida humanitarian organization with a record of great success providing wheelchairs around the globe to anyone in need of one.

According to Brody, "Water is fundamental to health and the lack of it is killing millions, especially in Africa and Asia. We can start to solve the problem by sending Lifestraws, but our plans go further. We are providing the Family Lifestraw, which can clean and filter larger amounts of water for use in the home, and we plan to drill wells, provide windmill-powered pumps, build schools and provide homes for teachers in rural villages. Clean water and education are basic human rights."

Rotary International, with 32,000 chapters around the world, is a volunteer organization comprised of business and professional people who provide humanitarian services to the local and international communities. Through the provision of clean drinking water, Rotary International is committed to the global eradication of polio and other diseases.

If you would like to help provide safe drinking water to people in need through the Fort Lauderdale Rotary’s Clean Water Program, send your contribution to:

Clean Water Project
Rotary 1090
C/O Martin Brody
100 NE 3rd Avenue Suite 1000
Fort Lauderdale FL 33301
Or you can contribute online at

The Lifestraw has been called "the invention of the century" for its tremendous potential to effect transformative change in developing nations. Forbes Magazine named the Lifestraw one of "Ten Things that Will Change the World." Vestergaard Frandsen, based in Switzerland, develops technology and innovation to solve the complex problems of the developing world, including disease prevention. "We orchestrated the delivery of 20,000 Lifestraws to Myanmar to help the people whose lives have been devastated by the cyclone," says Brody. "I believe that we are here to make a difference in the lives of others. A Lifestraw is such a small thing, but it changes and saves lives."

To contact Martin Brody, call (561) 271-8078. To learn more about the Lifestraw, visit
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