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Stanford University School of Medicine

A quest to replace dirt floors and boost health of African families

EarthEnable, a start-up born at Stanford and based in Rwanda, is working to eliminate the millions of dirt floors found in poor communities worldwide -- and potentially improve the health of many.

As a recent Stanford Business story explains:

...dirt floors breed mosquitos, parasites, and disease... [A] paved floor can reduce childhood diarrhea by nearly 50 percent and parasitic infections by more than 75 percent. But the problems with dirt floors go beyond hygiene. They are a fundamental indicator of enduring poverty — a daily, depressing reminder of an unfortunate person’s unchanging lot.

When it rains, they get muddy. Drop a clean shirt? You'll need to wash it again. Mice and insects scurry around. Any movement raises dust, clogging the air.

To change that, EarthEnable co-founder and CEO Gayatri Datar and her team are aiming to install 2 million solid, earthen floors by 2025. The key is a varnish that seals the sand-and-clay mixture into a smooth surface that can be cleaned with water.

Affordability is also essential -- the floors average $80 per house.

The effort -- which began in a Graduate School of Business course called Design for Extreme Affordability -- has attracted attention from international donors, including the Netherlands' Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and Habitat for Humanity.

Datar estimates that as many as 300 million homes worldwide still have dirt floors, and she wants to pave them all.

Previously: "Sometimes aid is transformative:" A look at a simple, affordable clubfoot treatment, What I learned about emergency preparedness from spending 36 post-earthquake hours in Nepal and New documentary focuses on Stanford's Design for Extreme Affordability course
Photo by Jacques Nkinzingabo

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