Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blue Planet Runs (WHO)

I haven't really discussed the Blue Planet Run since it began (my last post truly about the Blue Planet Run was posted on June 2), but I've been monitoring them as they've crossed Europe and Asia.

Last Saturday, as he ran through Russia, David Christof asked the following:

I realized that I have not been communicating with you much one on one, and that you probably have questions about the Run. So, please ask away. Post questions/comments after my blog entries. Feel free to ask anything. I know you are out there (I see the number on my page counter growing), so don't be shy. Any comments/questions always lift up my spirits. It gets lonely and longsome over here, and knowing that people are reading from far helps me remember that water is life, and life is good in Asia.

(If you've been reading Christof, you'll recognize his tag at the end.)

Well, I done asked:

The portion of the run that has fascinated me the most is your trek across Asia. Before you started, what did you expect this portion of the run to be like? When you actually began running this segment, was there anything that surprised you?

Christof didn't directly answer the question at the time, but a subsequent post contained an answer of sorts:

Diarrhea, once considered an enemy, has now become more like the disliked relative—unwanted, but ever-present and accepted—as most of the runners have experienced it at one point or another. It affected me for 2 days. Once shy about using the woods, the long call (as my Kenyan friend calls it) in the bushes is no longer a problem for me. Neither is stopping mid-run, telling the police escort “5 minute toilet pausa” and running off to the woods. After running through half of Russia, priorities shift a little....Toilet paper is a number one priority, and a toilet seat is a pleasant surprise. Yeah, good times running around the world.

And this isn't an Asian-only thing. Shiri Leventhal was making the following comments way back in Peter Berdovsky's home country of Belarus:

I don’t know what Team Silver consumed, but boy, did it do us wrong. Starting with David, who couldn’t finish his run due to “stomach troubles”, to Emmanuel running slow with once again…”stomach problems”....

Perhaps some of my readers may not want to read about diarrhea. But after all, isn't that part of what this run is all about? Consider this information about drinking water from the World Health Organization:

"Water and Sanitation is one of the primary drivers of public health. I often refer to it as “Health 101”, which means that once we can secure access to clean water and to adequate sanitation facilities for all people, irrespective of the difference in their living conditions, a huge battle against all kinds of diseases will be won."

Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization....

1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera); 90% are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.

88% of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

Improved water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 21%.

Improved sanitation reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 37.5%.

The simple act of washing hands at critical times can reduce the number of diarrhoeal cases by up to 35%.

Additional improvement of drinking-water quality, such as point of use disinfection, would lead to a reduction of diarrhoea episodes of 45%.

From my perspective in suburban southern California, diarrhea is an inconvenience. For billions of people, diarrhea is a matter of life and death.


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