10 April 2014

Honduras Health Centers: Támara and Marcala

Támara was the first town that we visited on the trip that had an AguaClara plant. It was inaugurated in June 2008 and serves a population of 3500. After a delicious lunch at Doña Reina’s, which included a juice made with AguaClara water, a young boy from the community led several of us to the health center. We were warned that the health center might be closed – some days it would close as early as 10 a.m. on weekdays. It was after 1 p.m. on a Thursday when we visited.

As anticipated, the health center was closed when we got there. Roger, one of our drivers, opened the gate and walked in to see if anyone was still there and available. Two women were still doing paperwork three hours after the health center had closed for that day, but one of the nurses was willing to talk to us for half an hour.

The nurse praised the AguaClara plant and the plant operators, saying that they had the best water in the area and that diarrhea cases had definitely decreased since the construction of the AguaClara plant. Medical students from the National University of Honduras visit Támara to study the connection between clean water and illness and give seminars about the water treatment process and the importance of sanitation. These medical students report that they see people getting sick everywhere, but there is a significantly lower level of illness in Támara.

Támara—Poster relating clean water to public health
One the reasons that young children still get sick – among other prevalent health problems – is that parents don’t clean their children’s pacifiers and bottles, so the issue is not the water but cleanliness practices. There is also a spike in diarrhea cases during Holy Week (Easter) because people tend to travel more and drink the unclean water in other places.

Two days later, we visited Marcala, which is known for its coffee. The AguaClara plant serves 2500 to 2800 households and was inaugurated in July 2008. Although the health center was closed because it was a Saturday, we were able to talk to Wilmer, one of the senior plant operators.

The water used to be so dirty that people wouldn’t be able to brush their teeth with it, and he estimated that over 90% of the population cannot afford to buy bottled water. Since the town began using the AguaClara plant, cases of diarrhea and water-borne diseases have decreased. Both the health center and Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC), a NGO that gives technical expertise in water and sanitation, monitor the drinking water quality and chlorine levels.

- Theresa Chu

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