The mission of Safe Water International is to identify clean drinking water solutions applicable to the poorest rural areas of the world and to promote local marketplace involvement in delivering those solutions.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Larry Siegel, Founder and Executive Director of Safe Water International about drinking water projects now underway in Malawi.
Note: a country of 13.5 million bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, Malawi is one of the least developed. A new study conducted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shows that more than half of urban Malawians do not have access to running water.
The Water Crisis in Perspective
The situation in Malawi is typical for millions of people living in rural areas around the world. Hand dug wells, such as the one pictured, are susceptible to contamination from human and animal waste, as well as fertilizer runoff. Not only is the drinking water compromised, but there’s an addition risk of it infiltrating the ground water.
The presence of fecal bacteria in drinking water results in dysentery and diarrhea, conditions that are often deadly in children due to extreme water loss, or others suffering from diseases such as HIV/AIDS which weaken the body’s immune system.
According to the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, 3 billion people live in unsanitary conditions; 1 billion of those lack access to clean drinking water. UN water expert Brian Appleton says that 5,000 children die needlessly every day from waterborne illnesses – a tragic situation that we have the ability to change.
The Safe Water International Approach
The Rotary funded Malawi Villages Drinking Water Project is focused on 10 remote villages in the Kasungu District of central Malawi and seeks to create a model for bringing safe drinking water to such villages in an affordable and sustainable manner.
The strategy begins with keeping water sources safe. To reduce contamination new wells are lined and sealed, then hand pumps are installed so that wells are no longer exposed to harmful elements and the drinking water can be safely extracted.
Larry explained that local ownership of such projects is important for long term success. To participate a village must provide some 4000 bricks, 50 pails of sand and 50 pails of gravel, plus dig the well themselves. They must also form a well committee to maintain the well. In return SWI provides the cement needed to finish the well and a hand pump. The total cost, including a local brick and cement worker, is about $350 per well.
While this step dramatically improves the quality of drinking water supplied to the village, Safe Water International also provides health and hygiene classes through the services of a village health educator – a vital educational process that can be replicated throughout Malawi as the program expands.
The 300in6 Initiative
SWI is an advocate of the 300in6 Initiative which empowers communities, businesses, governments and support groups to scale up hygiene education and household water treatment. By doubling previous plans, it enables 300 million people to adopt new safe water systems by 2015. Larry believes Malawi can be a 300in6 leader, providing six million more Malawians with low-cost chlorine products and water filters.
Your support of Safe Water International can save lives throughout the world!