“24,000 children die every single day because of preventable water-borne diseases, and $600 million is the annual GDP loss in India alone from lost productivity because of preventable water-borne diseases,” says Brown University third-year student and social entrepreneur, Anshu Vaish.
Vaish adds that “every year, 443 million schooldays are missed by children because they are at home sick” from these water-borne illnesses; his account bares even more grim statistics about the health and sanitary predicament borne by millions of urban slum-dwellers in India who have no access to clean water.
Fortunately, Vaish — who trekked from his home in Los-Angeles, California to pursue studies in Economics and Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) — is not just talking and citing gloomy figures from World Heath Organization (WHO) data.
He is doing something.
Vaish is the co-executive director of WaterWalla, a not-for-profit organization that he and four other colleagues founded in April 2010 to improve the health and sanitation urban slum dweller using technology to clean water. The group's work so far has focused on urban slum dwellers in the India.
Slums are traditionally neglected properties, usually illegal settlements on government land or private property, according to Vaish, and “because they are so neglected and marginalized, something has to be done with regards to all the conditions that they are facing.”
In this interview, Vaish discusses his organization’s business model, and how it serves not only the health needs of the target communities, but also, fosters entrepreneurship and conserves wealth within Indian urban slums.
“We blend private business principles with a public focus,” says Vaish.
WaterWalla's work, moreover, is the culmination of its founders' determination to put what they learn into practice and do so "in a way that makes a positive impact in somebody else's life as opposesd to our own," Vaish says.