Funding hitch pulls the plug on water filter

A clean water process pioneered in the North-East which could save thousands of lives has failed to get off the ground due to lack of funding.

A clean water process pioneered in the North-East which could save thousands of lives has failed to get off the ground due to lack of funding.

Unlike commercial water filters currently supplied by some charities, the unit designed by Dr Paul Sallis and colleagues at Newcastle University can easily be made in developing countries by local people using local materials.

The low tech manufacturing process overcomes the problems of having to educate low-income families to use water filters and of having to order costly spare parts when a filter breaks down.

But after successful trials, the project has not been widely implemented as it does not qualify for support from the development agencies - because it falls into a "no man's land" between research and commercial products.

Charities estimate that more than a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.

In some parts of Africa, water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and viral diarrhoea claim the lives of one in four children.

One of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to cut by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five, and this goal is one of the keynote topics at the 2006 World Water Congress in Beijing which started this week.

The Newcastle project began after postgraduate civil engineering students visited Ghana, Kenya and Malaysia and recognised the huge benefits that sustainable water filtration could have on health. One of the students, Matt Simpson, devoted his doctoral research project to the issue.

In May, the project reached the last 125 out of 2,500 applications for a grant award from the World Bank, but just failed to get funding .

Dr Sallis said: "Funds are available for research and for the distribution of finished products, but unfortunately we fall in a no-man's land between the two.

"Ceramic water filters offer great potential for reducing the pathogen intake by people with low quality drinking water, and are therefore one of the most promising options to address United Nations Millennium Development Goal targets for reducing infant mortality."

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