Millions of tubewells across South Asia protect from cholera, but many contain poisonous levels of arsenic. Arsenic impairs fetal growth, increases infant mortality, diminishes children’s intellectual and motor functions, reduces adult earnings, and accounts for six percent of adult mortality in Bangladesh. A primary issue is that most rural residents don’t know the status of their well. Our consortium's solution—providing access to safe wells—amplifies our proof of concept and will improve the lives of 40 million people. We will test millions of wells for arsenic. Results will be distributed via a smartphone app that indicates which wells to use. The app also will guide the installation of millions of new, safe wells. We will rigorously assess the impact of these interventions and adjust procedures accordingly. These actions will provide the Bangladeshi government with data and methodology to ensure that arsenic exposure remains low in the future.
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Our Bangla app, which navigates 50,000 well-arsenic concentrations in specific areas of the country, is available on the Google Play store and has been downloaded several hundred times after a short Facebook ad campaign. The app is ready to receive millions of new well test results acquired through a recent government-funded program. In addition, USAID Development Innovations Ventures has funded a $200,000 pilot trial aiming to quantify the impact of the app’s well-arsenic information on household water choices.