Project #10088

Provide Millions of Kenyans with Safe Water

by Innovations for Poverty Action

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  You can sign up for our newsletter on the homepage.   We also post frequent updates on our Facebook and Twitter accounts at and


Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is pleased to announce the launch of a new organization created with IPA’s support and dedicated to taking cost-effective programs to scale to improve the lives of millions in Africa and Asia. Evidence Action has been created to bridge the gap between evidence about what works to alleviate poverty around the world and what is actually implemented. The organization scales interventions based on rigorous evidence and crafts resilient business models for long run success.
Two IPA initiatives that touch millions of people in Africa and Asia – Dispensers for Safe Water and the Deworm the World Initiative – will spin off from IPA to be managed by Evidence Action. Dispensers for Safe Water is an entrepreneurial program scaling the chlorine dispenser system. This innovation is based on research that showed that installing chlorine dispensers next to community water sources made treating water easy, which increased usage of chlorine six-fold, providing a very low-cost strategy to get millions of people drinking safe water.  This year the program will reach over one million people in Africa. The Deworm the World Initiative actively supports the scale-up of school-based deworming programs worldwide to free children of intestinal worms. Not only has this been shown to be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve attendance in school, children in school-based deworming programs also have higher incomes a decade later. The Deworm the World Initiative has reached more than 40 million children by partnering with governments to support their work, ensuring integration with other health and education initiatives and long-run financial sustainability for school-based deworming programs.
While IPA will continue to operate and provide support for both of these programs throughout the transition period, the management and strategic planning of this work are transitioning to Evidence Action. Both organizations will continue to work closely together after the transition is complete.
“The launch and success of Evidence Action is central to IPA's overall strategic vision,” said Annie Duflo, Executive Director of IPA. “IPA’s vision is that evidence of what works translates to large-scale impact in practice. The creation of Evidence Action provides an exciting new path to take demonstrated ideas to the next stage of expansion, while allowing IPA to focus on designing and evaluating innovative solutions, and on mobilizing and supporting other organizations to use and apply this knowledge.”
“We are excited about the impact our collaboration will have on poverty alleviation around the world.”  Alix Zwane, Evidence Action’s new Executive Director who joined from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, adds: “The vision for Evidence Action is to take evidence-based interventions to scale. We identify innovative, appropriate financing mechanisms and build best practice operational models to cost-effectively impact millions of people.” Evidence Action will also benefit IPA's research by sharing lessons learned that can help research projects anticipate and plan for scale from the start.
For more information on the new collaboration click here.
About Innovations for Poverty Action
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is dedicated to discovering what works to help the world’s poor. Established in 2002, IPA designs and evaluates programs in real contexts with real people, and provides hands-on assistance to bring successful programs to scale. IPA partners with researchers in top universities and implementing organizations around the world to ensure that poverty-fighting activities are supported by rigorous evaluation. IPA shares the evidence generated with development practitioners, policymakers and donors, and provides technical assistance and support to governments and non-governmental actors to implement successful programs and bring them to scale around the world. IPA has ongoing research operations in 51 countries across Africa; North and South America; and South and South East Asia. Additional information can be found at
About Evidence Action
Evidence Action scales proven development interventions and crafts resilient business models for long run success. Evidence Action is committed to only scale interventions whose efficacy is backed by substantial rigorous evidence, and to target cost-effective interventions that can potentially improve the lives of millions. IPA has supported the creation of Evidence Action, and the two organizations will continue to work together closely to ensure that rigorous evidence is used in the most effective way to impact the lives of the vulnerable around the world. Additional information can be found at

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.

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.   



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Organization Information

Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: New Haven, CT - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Innovations for Poverty Action
Project Leader:
Heidi McAnnally-Linz
New Haven, CT United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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