We will not know where we are going unless we know where we started from. Many projects in Africa begin without really understanding the starting points. ICROSS works in scientific programmes using strict epidemiological surveillance to understand the patterns and determinants of disease and mortality. We have published in major peer review journals (Lancet, Reproductive Health Matters among others). Our work has influenced the way in which primary health care is delivered in many parts pf the world. Solar disinfection of drinking water as well as the use of flytraps in improving trachoma control is two important examples of the long term impact of our medical research. Currently we have 16 research programmes targeting orphans and vulnerable children, female genital circumcision, terminally ill AIDS patients, men who have sex with men and women.
A unique project which aims to demonstrate that solar disinfection (SODIS) of drinking water is an effective way of preventing waterborne diseases has been awarded €1.9 million in grant aid from the EU.
More than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water. SODIS is a low-tech, safe and affordable method to improve water quality which involves placing contaminated water into transparent bottles which are then placed in direct sunshine for 6 hours. It is approved by the World Health Organisation and recently proved to be effective in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia in 2004. The three year SODISWATER programme will be carried out by nine research groups in Ireland, Spain, UK, Switzerland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Over the next three years, the multidisciplinary team will investigate the health benefits of using solar disinfected drinking water in developing countries, the factors that influence communities to adopt or reject SODIS, whether the basic SODIS technique can be improved using simple technologies and whether there are there any major waterborne diseases that are not susceptible to SODIS.
ICROSS was involved in the first studies together with RCSI which included the impact of SODIS on Cholera.
"After a series of laboratory and field trials, we are certain that it is an effective way of preventing many diseases such as cholera, dysentery or polio and that it should be considered as an option alongside boiling, chlorination and other standard water treatment methods."