The invention of the century?

This is kind of old news by blog standards, but today's New York Times report on the cholera epidemic in Africa reminds me how timely the LifeStraw invention is. The Times writes that the number of recorded cholera cases in West Africa this year is "24,621, with at least 401 deaths in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal." The problem with cholera and other diorrhoeal diseases from bacteria like typhoid, cholera, e. coli, and salmonella is that they'd be nearly eradicated if only we all had clean drinking water. Instead, they're the world's biggest killer.

Enter: the LifeStraw, a 25mm pipe with a filter in it. With no moving parts or power plug, the straw, when sucked, filters out sediment, toxins, and--most important of all--bacteria. And for two bucks, it'll provide clean water for one person for a year. Amazing. As Gil Friend puts it:
Got that folks? Clean water for a year for two bucks! Clean water for the four billion of us at the bottom of the pyramid for $8b a year. (Or just the billion or so of us without access to safe water supplies.) Peanuts, in the scheme of things. Less than 1% of the 2002 (pre-Iraq War) global military budget. (Other stats from our Sense of Proportion Department, courtesy the World Bank: Gross National Income, globally, 2002: $31.7 trillion US (31.5 x 10^12); high income counties, $25.6 T, middle income, $5.06 T, low income countries, $1.07 T)
No wonder Gil is wondering if it's the "invention of the century."

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