Many indigenous villages and schools in Bocas del Toro do not have access to safe drinking water. Polluted water can lead to intestinal worms in humans, which cause anemia, chronic dysentery and malnutrition, all factors contributing to a high rate of absenteeism in schools. Children fall behind in their studies and often give up, perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty among the indigenous people. Men and women become ill and cannot keep up with the demands at work and in the home. Medical treatment, when available, is ineffective if patients continue to drink contaminated water. The entire community is negatively impacted by the lack of safe drinking water.
For every $1,000 that is donated, Planeterra can provide a new water tank for an indigenous school. Each tank serves approximately 80 schoolchildren and 290 villagers that live near the school.
Health and economic development starts with safe drinking water. Planeterra works with Operation Safe Drinking Water to install rain-catchment systems to collect water for schools and communities. These systems are particularly effective given their easy installation, maintenance and the high amount of rain on the islands. To ensure sustainability, the project also teaches community leaders, teachers and principals the importance of safe water and simple tank maintenance.