The advancement of mobile technology in the developing world is an exciting trend, unless you consider one sobering statistic: Data out there suggest that more people worldwide have cell phones than access to toilets.
This lack of access to sanitation is rife in countries including India, where public defecation is an ongoing health problem. Plenty of reasons explain this disconnect between the rapid adoption of technology and the lack of what to many of us is a basic human right. The blame is put on poor education, poverty, the fact that many people do not have title to the land they occupy and the lack of infrastructure. The result is that the United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people worldwide have no access to proper toilet facilities.
Easy access to toilets could save the lives of an estimated 200,000 children annually. But one problem is that, even where public toilets or latrines are available, many infants and toddlers are not properly diapered. Their feces end up contributing to the spread of diseases, which in part contributes to the estimated 1.8 billion people who are using a source of drinking water contaminated by human fecal matter. Now a social enterprise is trying to reverse that trend by selling goods that can help provide diapers for youngsters living in poor rural areas worldwide.
DriButts is the brainchild of Michael and Starla Wahl of Georgia. The couple became aware during past travels of the risks to which children were subjected by not being properly diapered. They resolved to create a diaper that could keep children clean, dry and comfortable and at the same time could easily be cleansed and maintained.
Visitors to their website can either make a one-time donation or buy a product, such as a diaper bag, that can help fund the manufacture and delivery of these diapers. Thirty dollars can buy two diapers, which will be delivered to Haiti, Honduras or Romania during one of the several “diaper drops” DriButts has scheduled this year. Those who are interested can also be part of the “DriTribe,” which is a monthly subscription to donate two of these diapers monthly. Those who contribute to DriButts via this route receive pictures of the families and updates about the community that benefit from these diapers.
The diapers are comprised of two parts: a moisture-wicking outer shell and an absorbent insert made from bamboo and other anti-bacterial materials that is breathable and can be easily washed. After a diaper is soiled, any solid waste can be dumped into a latrine or designated spot located a safe distance from any drinking water source. The diaper is then separated, and washed in a bucket with soap that DriButts provides to recipients. Each part can then be hand-wrung, with the water again dumped into that designated spot. The shell and absorbent insert can dry in as little as 45 minutes on a clothesline. Once completely dried, the diaper can then be reassembled and be used once again.
DriButts’ employees not only teach diaper recipients how to use the product, but also maintain relationships with local community leaders to ensure that the diapers are used and cleaned correctly.
DriButts seeks volunteers to join its employees on trips, or “diaper drops” — nine are scheduled so far this year. Most are to Haiti, with two scheduled for Honduras; one to Romania is set for this summer. The cost ranges from $1,000 to $1,300 plus the cost of a flight for a journey that lasts from one week to 10 days. Those who want to help scale DriButts’ work can also start a campaign within their school, work, church or community organization.
Image credit: DriButts