Rural Water Quality Collaborating with MINSA and ENACAL/DAR TASCA has installed and supported rural water-testing laboratories in El Cuá, Jinotega, Tuma-La Dalia and San Dionisio. These laboratories first used the standard membrane filtration method to detect the presence of fecal contamination in potable water. Later we validated, introduced and supported an inexpensive and simple field method for rural water testing which measures fecal contamination in water by detecting the presence of detergent resistant bacteria which produce hydrogen sulfide, without need of a laboratory nor access to electricity. This is now the primary method for control of rural water quality used by MINSA in the Departments of Chontales, Jinotega, Madriz, Matagalpa and the RAAS. The membrane filtration method continues in use for quality control.
We have also contributed to the development of an inexpensive chlorinator for rural water supplies.
Public Health Laboratories Collaborating with MINSA, TASCA has established provincial level public health laboratories in the Departments of Madriz and Jinotega, with a primary mission of monitoring drinking water quality in all areas of the Departments. TASCA continues to support the operation and development of these laboratories, as well as the Epidemiology laboratories in the Departments of Matagalpa and León and the laboratories of the Centro Nacional de Referencia y Diagnóstico (CNDR) in Managua, providing supplies, equipment and training of technicians. Support now extends beyond water testing to include surveillance of HIV, Dengue, Chagas, Leptospirosis, tuberculosis and antibiotic resistance.
Since 1996 TASCA has operated a scholarship program to improve the professional qualifications of Nicaraguan public health workers. The program has been very successful; since beginning in 1996 with two doctors from El Cuá studying towards the Masters in Public Health at the UNAN in León 99 have graduated with degrees in public health-related studies, 17 at the Masters level, 74 at the Bachelor level, plus 6 laboratory technicians and 2 professional nurses. Forty-three of the graduates are from rural communities. To date only three students have dropped out of the program. Of the graduates all but six continue to work in the field of public health. Currently TASCA is supporting the studies of 37 health workers from various parts of the country, 9 of whom are from rural communities.