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Case Study: LifeStraw® Carbon for Water Program, Western Kenya
In Kenya there are over 17 million people without access to safe water and in Western Kenya, less than 10% of residents have access to piped water. Lack of access to safe water poses a disproportionate burden to women and young girls who are primarily responsible for fetching and treating water. In response to this need, Vestergaard Frandsen implemented the first carbon financed safe water program in Western Kenya in 2011. The program is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Gender and Social Services, the National Environmental Management Authority and several other Kenyan government partners. It covers 4 counties of Western Kenya (Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga and Bungoma), with the provision of LifeStraw® Family water filters, ongoing health and hygiene education and filter maintenance services. This program covers approximately 900,000 households, equating to 4.5 million people.
A key part of the program has been its focus on empowering women through increased access to safe water for them and their families, creation of women leaders within the program, and empowerment of volunteer groups lead by local women. In the program region, 91% of those responsible for collecting water are women and young girls. Women are also responsible for maintaining the health of their family, caring for children when they are sick and taking family members to the clinic which means they lose valuable, productive time when they themselves or their families are not healthy.
In the LifeStraw® Carbon for Water program, 88% of those reporting using the filter are women. 88% of the program population has also reported health benefits from water filtration, and 92% also reported cost savings of which 83% had savings from medical expenditures. Women have become the strongest advocates for the program because of the benefits they note from having access to safe water in their everyday lives.
With local advocates emerging, the program has also focused on growing women leaders and bringing together local volunteer groups to be registered with the Ministry of Gender and Social Services. To date, more than 50 community-based organizations have been registered in the region and are active promoting health education. One example of a local leader that has emerged is Margaret Kemunto. Margaret began the program as a local volunteer and was eventually promoted to District Coordinator, where she oversees all program activities in Bunyala district of Busia County. Bunyala is one of the poorest and most vulnerable districts in the region and is often prone to major flooding and outbreaks of water-borne disease. Margaret has worked tirelessly to promote the use of safe water in her district and in December of 2011, when the district experienced one of the worst floods in history and over 2,000 people were marooned at a primary school for close to three weeks, Margaret worked with volunteers to ensure they had access to safe water by bringing their LifeStraws to the school. Margaret now has 66 volunteers working under her to maintain continuous community education and participation and most of these volunteers are women.
Last updated: March 07, 2014