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Don’t take your toilet and clean drinking water for granted. In many parts of the world, good sanitation systems don’t exist and the consequences—such as deadly outbreaks of waterborne infectious diseases—can be devastating, emergency medicine physician Miriam Aschkenasy, M.P.H. ’03, told a group of Boston and Cambridge high school students recently at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
About 60 students from diverse backgrounds were captivated by Aschkenasy’s account of what it was like to manage a 2009 cholera outbreak in the Republic of Zimbabwe in southern Africa. It only took a few months for 10,000 cholera cases to quadruple, thanks in part to over-taxed latrines, consisting of open air holes in the ground. “Clean water and improved toilet systems remain a key public health need around the world,” she said in her talk, “Water Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink,” on April 11, 2014.