World Water Day 2016: Partnering with rural communities increases access to safe water

About 1 in 10 people on the planet (that’s 663 million) have no access to clean water, according to World Health Organization and UNICEF. Kiva has been working to support its partners, such as Evidence Action and People’s Forum, to provide safe drinking water, save lives and scale sustainable solutions. None of this would be possible without the support of Kiva’s incredible lenders around the world and we want to thank you this World Water Day!

Evidence Action provides innovative water solution in Kenya

Evidence Action is Kiva partner and a nonprofit organization with a mission to scale innovative, cost-effective interventions backed by rigorous testing and evidence. Kiva lenders support one of Evidence Action’s flagship programs, Dispensers for Safe Water, which provides rural communities with access to safe drinking water through the installation and maintenance of chlorine dispensers.

Developed to address the problem of water-borne illnesses like diarrhea and cholera, chlorine dispensers are proven to dramatically expand access to clean water for less than $0.50 per person, per year at scale. Water related diseases are a leading cause of death among children under 5 in Kenya, and worldwide a child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related disease. Chlorine dispensers are a simple, cost-effective solution.

More than half of households treat water when dispensers are available.

Chlorine dispensers placed at communal water sources such as wells, springs and boreholes enable communities to treat their water, whenever they collect drinking water. They simply turn a valve on the dispenser to release a metered dose of chlorine into their water containers (typically standard yellow jerry cans) and then collect water as usual. The chlorine disinfects the water and protects against recontamination. Studies found that fewer than 1 in 6 households chlorinated their water when they did not have access to a dispenser, but more than half of households treated their water when there was one available.

Mika promotes dispenser usage to protect the children in her village.

In Museywa village, Milka has volunteered to promote the chlorine dispenser by educating neighbors about the dispenser’s use and benefits. She also refills the dispenser with chlorine when the tank runs low. The Museywa village does not have a piped water supply, so the community collects their water from a protected spring. This water is easily contaminated with bacteria that can cause water-borne illnesses, which may cause villagers to fall sick and become unable to work or attend school. Milka is very grateful that her community will have access to free and safe drinking water now, especially because her children suffered from diarrheal diseases when they were young. She doesn’t want her grandchildren or other village children to suffer the same way.

Thanks to Kiva lenders, Evidence Action has been able to install chlorine dispensers in many rural villages in Kenya with high rates of waterborne diseases. Evidence Action expects that every $1,200 lent on Kiva will prevent 1 child under the age of 5 from dying due to diarrheal disease.

Uniquely, Kiva lenders are reimbursed by the proceeds of the sale of carbon credits. These carbon credits are generated when households use chlorine dispensers to treat their water, as they no longer need to boil water over wood-burning fires that release harmful greenhouse gases. This behavioral change is monetized through the sale of carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market.

Overall, loans funded on Kiva allowed for the installation and operation of 3,000 additional chlorine dispensers, preventing about 750,000 new cases of diarrheal disease and saving more than 700 Kenyan lives.

People’s Forum partners with villages to address water and sanitation in India

People’s Forum office in one of Odisha’s districts.

People’s Forum is a Kiva partner and development organization that provides affordable loan products and support services to women in Odisha, one of India’s poorest states. In many of the districts, people have little access to drinking water or toilets, leading to high incidence of sanitation and waterborne illnesses. A recent assessment estimated nearly 8.5 million Odisha residents don’t have access to safe water and sanitation, making water solutions a pressing issue.

In many of Odisha’s districts, people have little access to drinking water or toilets.

People’s Forum’s Safe Water and Sanitation to Households program provides loans including funds and materials to build toilets, individual and community wells and connections to the public water supply, decreasing chances for cross-contamination. The program focuses on changing mindsets and behaviors by educating the population on issues related to health, hygiene and the environment.

Institutional mechanism, like a dedicated committee, ensures sustainability of water & sanitation solutions.

People’s Forum involves each community in a unique way. The decision of what solution is implemented is owned by the villages themselves. This ownership empowers them to not only ensure everyone in the community is engaged but also that the solution is practical and successful.

It begins by establishing village-led committees dedicated to clean water and sanitation. The committee then works to educate their communities on the health benefits of drinking clean water and adopting better sanitary habits. The village will then work to identify the best solutions for them, such as deep and shallow bore wells, overhead tanks and piping system for safe use or construction of user friendly latrines and bathrooms.

Women risk safety in order to practice sanitary habits.

People’s Forum has designed several loan products specifically to cater to the financial needs of households lacking access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Because the women in these villages hardly have any savings and have never been able to afford basic facilities within their homes, they must travel long distances sometimes to the detriment of their own safety. Thanks to Kiva lenders, People’s Forum has reached 1,200 households and impacted 6,000 people with safe water connections and sanitation facilities.

If you believe everyone should have access to clean drinking water, help Kiva and its partners like Evidence Action and People’s Forum by lending here!

Story by Crystal Chandy. Photos by Rachel Caine, Laura Piper and Kiva Fellow, Lucy Prom.