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    Development and demography: A relationship that requires research [editorial]

    PLoS Medicine Editors

    PLoS Medicine. 2006 Apr; 3(4):e211.

    One of the most unsettling images for newcomers to many parts of Africa is the sight of undernourished women bearing unfeasibly large vessels of water long distances over rough terrain to supply the needs of their families. A sense of outrage that anyone should have to live like this in the 21st century forms the basis of the humanitarian imperative that drives development programs, especially those that focus on basic needs such as access to safe water. When such a program reduces from three hours to 15 minutes the time that women spend fetching water each day, surely it can be described as a success, without the need for any "scientific" assessment of what has been achieved? In this issue of PLoS Medicine, we publish a study that did assess such a program. Mhairi Gibson and Ruth Mace (DOI: 10.1371/journal. pmed.0030087)--from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom--compared villages in Ethiopia that benefited from a tapped water supply with other villages that did not. Outcome measures included the nutritional status of women and children, mortality rates, and birth rates. There were a number of surprising findings, most notably the large increase in birthrate in the villages where the water supply intervention took place. (excerpt)
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