Innovations for Poverty Action

IPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating, evaluating, and replicating innovative solutions to poverty and policy problems worldwide. Combining technical rigor and creative thinking, IPA partners with frontline organizations to create and evaluate context-specific solutions to poverty problems. IPA is driven by the belief that concrete evidence on what works, what does not work, and why, will accelerate the eradication of global poverty.
Mar 1, 2013

1,010 new dispensers in Kenya

In February 2013, the Dispensers for Safe Water team completed an extensive dispenser installation process in a new part of Kenya. We were able to install an additional 1,010 dispensers in the Nyanza District over the course of approximately three months; an average of more than 10 dispensers per day. Nyanza has one of the highest diarrhea rates in the country, and was therefore a priority for expanding our operations in early 2013. With these new dispensers, DSW now has total of 3,200 dispensers in the ground in Kenya, which are providing access to safe water for 640,000 people.

An important part our work for the Nyanza roll-out has been to improve and systematize our communications and marketing efforts for local government officials, village leaders and dispenser users. We know that obtaining the support of local leaders is critical to the success of our projects; attendance at community meetings is a key driver of dispenser usage; and marketing messages have a significant impact on whether or not people decide to treat their water.

So, for the Nyanza roll-out we have been implementing a village-level pre-installation meeting (called a village community sensitization), as well as a dispenser-level post-installation meeting (called a community education meeting). At the pre-installation meeting, we introduce the project, get the community’s commitment and buy-in (including contributing sand/ballast for the installation), and communicate the water points that have been selected to have dispensers installed. I recently attended a post-installation meeting in Nyanza, where we shared some new social marketing messages with the community to address the dangers of contaminated water and explain how to use the dispenser, and a dispenser promoter was chosen to refill and maintain the dispenser. Attendance was very high - children were off school that particular day, and our field staff was able to attract interest by amplifying music from a mobile phone and inviting people from the surrounding area using a megaphone (see photograph).

The megaphone is a simple example of how we are constantly striving to improve our model. One of our field staff suggested that a megaphone might help remind a broader range of households that the meeting was about to take place. We ran some small experiments, and found that meetings where a megaphone was used beforehand to rally people to join was associated with a 17% increase in attendance. Our evaluations have shown that meeting attendance is correlated with a 9% higher likelihood of using the dispenser (as indicated by positive test for chlorine in a household’s stored drinking water). We are then able to calculate the impact on adoption from an intervention like a megaphone, calculate the cost per unit increase in adoption, and then make data-driven decisions about which interventions to continue testing and integrating into our mainstream operations.

With our donors’ support, DSW will continue to scale up our operations in Kenya, and we will maintain our focus on evaluation and feedback loops to improve our program along the way. By finding out which types of messaging are the most effective at encouraging adoption and maintaining usage of the dispenser over the long-term, we can maximize the health benefits for our target communities.

Nov 30, 2012

Dispensers for Safe Water receives Stone Prize!

Community members using a dispenser Photo: Kalan
Community members using a dispenser Photo: Kalan

During the previous quarter, the Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) Initiative at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) launched a study aimed at identifying key factors for increasing chlorine adoption, began developing a best practices toolkit, and finalized plans for the next wave of expansion of chlorine dispensers. An additional 1,100 dispensers will be installed by January 2013, bringing the total number to 3,229. This new roll out will provide safe water to 220,000 people, bringing the total number of people with access to safe water via chlorine dispensers to 640,000 in Western Kenya.

DSW was also recently awarded the Stone Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Water. The dispensers initiative was chosen from among 175 water projects representing 37 countries, and the review included assessment by an international panel of water experts as well as an on-the-ground evaluation. The DSW initiative was chosen based on the program’s innovative model and proven impact. This is a tremendous honor for our program and confirmation of our successful approach to providing safe water.

John Stone, the Founder of the Stone Family Foundation, said the following about our program:

‘Dispensers for Safe Water really stood out to me for being unique in its approach to providing safe drinking water in an area of rural Africa where poor water quality is a major cause of potentially fatal illnesses such as diarrhoea and typhoid. I was impressed by the dynamic and enthusiastic team behind the project and am delighted that the money from this prize will enable them to take their work forward and scale it up.’

We are incredibly grateful to those who have donated to our initiative to date and while the Stone Prize has recognized our efforts, our initiative is still in need of your generous support.  Every additional dollar donated to our program allows us to provide access to safe water and improve the lives of thousands of people that much more quickly. We’re hoping that you will continue to help us reach our ambitious goals.   


Nov 29, 2012

The largest school-based deworming program ever!

In Bihar, a wall painting to promote awareness
In Bihar, a wall painting to promote awareness

We did it! This year on September 10th, Deworm the World Initiative (DtW) helped to continue the largest ever school-based deworming program targeting over 20 million at-risk children in the state of Bihar, India. As a result of this program millions of students will now have healthier years and achieve greater benefit from their education. Remarkably, even children who did not receive deworming medication will benefit due to the overall decrease in worm prevalence in the state as a result of this exercise.

What did it take to conduct a successful program of this massive size?

  1. Lots of training to ensure safe distribution of deworming tablets. To teach teachers in nearly 70,000 schools to properly administer tablets, a “train the trainer” cascade was employed. A group of master trainers (including teachers and doctors) at the state level taught district trainers, who in turn imparted training at the block-level and on down to headmasters and teachers in each school.
  2. Widespread information campaigns to notify non-enrolled students of their eligibility and ensure parental support. Hundreds of wall paintings (like the one below), radio and TV announcements and even stage shows performed by children all served to spread information about the safety and efficacy of the tablets and to encourage community support.
  3. Vigilant monitoring to ensure quality and track progress. Monitoring was conducted at all stages of the exercise to ensure tablets were received and training was conducted as intended. Data is now being collected from schools, and a future report will include information on the exact number and type of students who were dewormed in the area.

We are proud to report that each of these crucial elements were a success. But given the widespread severity of worm infections in the area, a sustained campaign is required to make a long-term impact in the lives of these children. Simply put, without continued deworming, worm prevalence in the area will rebound.

We appreciate your help to ensure the success of this program is expanded and not diminished. Few other interventions provide such widespread benefit at such low cost - treating and preventing worms costs less than $0.30 per child per year in Bihar, and the majority of costs are covered by the government and through generous pharmaceutical donation programs. DtW’s support for these programs is only pennies per child.

We thank you for your generous support and look forward to providing you with continued positive news from the state of Bihar.