Faisal Chohan is a small guy with a big belief: “There is no problem too large to be solved.”
This native of Gujranwala, Pakistan should know. Following the devastating floods in his home country in 2010, he immediately used his technological prowess to create an open mapping project to document the damage that affected nearly 20 million people. He also volunteered during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Chohan, a Senior TED Fellow and TEDxIslamabad organizer, will now continue his mapping work with a related mission: Improving sanitation in order to prevent the spread of cholera—a bacterial infection in the small intestine, primarily caused by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by feces of an infected person. The rapid dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that results can lead to death if left untreated.
Cholera is the second leading cause of death in South Asia.
Rawalpindi, home of two million people, will serve as the pilot city. It is one of the oldest cities in Pakistan, without some of the same infrastructure of a place like the capital, where Chohan lives now. Only 18% of Pakistanis have access to proper sewerage infrastructure there.
Chohan and his tech team will train everyday citizens to map the flow of water in their local areas, give them bicycles so they can get around, and mapping devices so they can register their findings. Not only will citizens benefit from new job skills and increased public health literacy, but potential spots of contamination will be identified and targeted for clean up. Subsequent stages will include mapping hospital reports on water borne diseases, replicated this mapping work in additional cities, and involving government officials.
This last goal is particularly important to Pakistanis as a new round of elections approach. Chohan explains, “By putting these maps on the ground and making them available to voters, we can equip them to demand better sanitation. It’s a basic right.”