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Sari drawn into cholera fight

Washington, Jan. 14 (Reuters): A folded sari — available to every woman in Bangladesh — can filter drinking water clean of the particles carrying cholera, cutting in half the number of cases of the disease, researchers reported yesterday.

The study, published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that low-tech solutions can save lives.

“The beauty of this method is that it is simple. It is cheap,” Anwar Huq of the University of Maryland, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview. “They can use old saris. The biggest advantage is it is readily available in each and every household in Bangladesh.”

Tests covering 133,000 people in 65 Bangladeshi villages showed that when women were taught to use a folded sari to filter drinking water, incidences of cholera dropped by 48 per cent. The researchers now plan a large-scale education campaign.

Cholera is a deadly disease carried by bacteria that infect organisms in the water, from plankton to shellfish. It causes severe diarrhoea that can be easily treated by modern medicine — but it killed nearly 3,000 people in 2001.

These numbers probably only represent the tip of the iceberg, the scientists said, because the poorest people are usually the victims and the cause of their deaths is often not reported.

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