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It Starts With Clean Water

In one of Tanzania's rural Massai villages, our team learns that awareness is only one piece of the puzzle in keeping kids healthy.

Photo of Shauna Carey
10 17

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As part of the preparation leading up to this challenge, an team spent two weeks in Tanzania, exploring the gaps and opportunities in supporting children to survive and thrive in their first five years. Tanzania has a rich cultural heritage that includes hundreds of individual tribes, and as we saw during our research, the challenges facing parents in raising young children are as diverse as the country’s many communities.

Monduli is a mountainous, extremely rural community about an hour from Arusha, Tanzania. Massai communities have lived in this part of the country for generations. On our team’s first week in Arusha, we headed to Monduli to visit with parents and learn more about what it’s like to raise young children in this rural setting.

Thanks in part to the efforts of the Monduli Pastoralist Development Initiative and other NGOs in the area, we found that many parents not only recognized the importance of investing in their children’s health and wellbeing, but were well-informed about the resources available to them (ie the closest health clinic).

In a community that is distributed across a set of barren peaks with little formal infrastructure to speak of, this level of awareness was impressive. All of these parents went to the clinic during pregnancy, sent their children to preschool and were invested in their success. So, when we asked about the biggest challenge they face, our team was surprised by how basic it was: lack of clean drinking water.

“Our only option here is to use the same water source that the cows use,” said one father. Others echoed his concern, citing typhoid and other illnesses that had kept children ill and out of school over the years.

This conversation in Monduli led our team to an insight about how crucial “the basics” really are, and how they enable—or inhibit—progress in other areas. The fact is, limited or no access to clean water prevents children from thriving even when parents are investing time in all other areas. And, no one family on their own can solve the clean water deficit—the resources for a water point aren't readily available. Knowing their children need clean water doesn't enable parents to provide it in a resource-scarce area like Monduli.

As we move towards designing solutions to this challenge, one thing we'll want to keep in mind is...
How might we help parents reduce their children's risk of waterborne illness and disease?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Super insightful, Shauna & the team. And also a great highlight of the things we take for granted in many parts of the world. Many of the sanitation initiatives I've read about focus on urban areas (including some great ones from :^) Do you – or anyone else here – know of any innovative water sanitation solutions which operate in rural low income communities to inspire our onwards thinking?

Photo of Alfonso Herrera

There´s a group of Chilean entrepreneurs that developed a cheap technology for water sanitization (virus and bacteria destruction) you could check this link to start I find it inspiring. plasma technology, 35 liters of water in 5 minutes at the cost of a light bulb (Mr. Alfredo Zolezzi speech at Wired 2013, uk)

Photo of Chris Pozzi

Thanks for sharing, Shauna - your story reinforced a lot of the things that I've seen working at One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that serves smallholder farmers in East Africa, including Tanzania.

In reply to Meena's question, I wanted to share a blog post from One Acre Fund that discusses how our organization distributed chlorine, a low cost safe water solution, to over 115,000 farmers this past year:

"[Farmers] walk long distances to reach the nearest water point—especially during the dry season—with little or no promise that the water will be clean and safe to drink. Coming directly from the ground, the water can be contaminated, leading to diarrhea, typhoid, or cholera. All this has a profound impact on their ability to farm and feed their families.

When farm families fall sick, they are not able to tend to their crops. They end up spending the little money they have saved for food and school fees on medical bills and pharmacy prescriptions. Or in some cases, funeral fees. Diarrhea is the number one killer of children worldwide.

This year, One Acre Fund delivered chlorine to over 115,000 households across East Africa as part of our loan package. That means over 500,000 women, men, and children will have treated water that is safe to drink. We estimate our chlorine distribution will prevent 75,000 cases of diarrhea among children under the age of five, saving lives and freeing up money for food and school fees."

Photo of Chris Pozzi

Another safe water solution (that, incidentally, also got me interested in both design and international development) is the hippo water roller, a rolling wheel that carries 90 litres (24 gallons) of water inside a rolling wheel that allows individuals to transport water over long distances:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Wow – that's impressive stats from One Acre Fund, Chris. We'd love it if you might create a dedicated Research post on this initiative. It's sure to inspire our community. Great to have you onboard for this challenge.

Photo of Chris Pozzi

Thanks, Meena - just published!

Photo of Rong Jun Li

Hi, great point, do you know the Water Project?
The Water Project, Inc. is a non-profit organization unlocking human potential by providing sustainable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa who suffer needlessly from a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation. i think we may encourge people to keep raising funds to build water projects in Africa.

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