The Dispensers for Safe Water program has transitioned to Evidence Action and is currently providing over 1.2 million Kenyans with sustained access to clean water through over 5,200 dispensers. The chlorine dispensers have maintained high adoption rates by communities. Rigorous evaluations found that less than 1 in 6 households chlorinated their water without dispenser access, but more than 40% of households with access to a dispenser chlorinate their drinking water. Drinking chlorinated water reduces diarrhea – a top cause of child mortality in Kenya- by 41% and reduces the irreversible effects of stunted growth.
Evidence Action aims to take this proven development intervention to scale. To this end, we are working towards serving over 5 million Kenyans by 2016. We will install more than 7,000 new dispensers in 2014.
In 2013, Evidence Action launched a new, innovative partnership with Kiva which will fund sustained clean water access for up to 600,000 additional Kenyans in the next two years. Carbon credits will finance the project for sustainable service delivery into the future, making it possible for communities to reap the benefits of their carbon offsets.
To learn more about the progress of the Dispensers for Safe Water Program, please visit our website at evidenceaction.org. You can sign up for our newsletter on the homepage. We also post frequent updates on our Facebook and Twitter accounts at Facebook.com/evidenceaction and Twiitter.com/EvidenceAction.
On May 21, 2013, USAID’s Administrator, Rajiv Shah, announced an award from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) to support the scale-up of the Dispensers for Safe Water program. The $5.5 million grant, supported by DIV’s WASH for Life partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is DIV’s first Stage 3 award. Stage 3 funding is reserved for innovative solutions that have credible and rigorous evidence of development impacts at significant scale. Stage 3 projects transition an innovation from large scale implementation to widespread adoption; this grant will help Dispensers for Safe Water provide five million people with access to dispensers.
Director of Programs for Dispensers for Safe Water, Eric Kouskalis, said “we are thrilled to be partnering with DIV on the scale-up of dispensers. DIV’s objective is to find, test, and scale interventions that get the biggest bang for the buck, and at a cost of less than $0.50 per person per year at scale, dispensers fit the bill perfectly.”
Dispensers for Safe Water critically evaluates the program to drive improvements throughout the expansion. DIV and Dispensers for Safe Water will measure success along metrics such as the number of dispenser users (by gender), the percentage of households with chlorine present in their drinking water, the percentage of individuals who understand the benefits and correct usage of dispensers, and the dispenser manufacturing and chlorine delivery costs. This data will provide valuable feedback to help the program maximize adoption, sustain dispenser usage, and increase operational efficiencies.
Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer at DIV, congratulated DSW on the award. “Results based on rigorous evidence is the hallmark of DIV. Through this award with Dispensers for Safe Water, we will avert 3.3 million cases of diarrhea, save 3,200 children's lives and that is just in the first three years.”
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.
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.
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