HTI Water Humanitarian Water

Humanitarian Water: Kenya Project Blog

hti water kenya project blog boy hydropackJanuary 20 - 21, 2011- MUDIMBIA, KENYA

HTI Water Disaster Relief Research Project - Mudimbia, Kenya

This demonstration pilot has four main components; a daily household survey that looks at acceptance and proper use of the Hydropack, a second daily survey undertaking by three community health workers looking at predetermined health parameters, an in depth interview process with certain households to examine ways to optimize the communication and packaging, and finally the collection of randomized HydroPack and source water samples for lab testing.  Today we took the samples to a government lab in Kisumu for testing.

Our five field workers had the pouches collected by 8am, and we embarked on the two hour drive, through beautiful Kenyan countryside of farmers and rice fields and children walking to school.  Half of that drive covers red dirt roads that throw up clouds of a talcum-like dust that are unstoppable, though with the heater stuck on high and the windows rolled down, there isn’t much to block the dust.  As bad as it is in the car, it must be choking for the unlucky pedestrians and cyclists. Mercifully, Clifford decided to take a shortcut recommended by an absolutely trustworthy random person at a crossroads, and we were pleased that it only added 45 minutes to the trip.  The overriding goal, however, on any trip to Kisumu, is to get back before dark.  Night driving is just like night terrors, only you are powerless to stop it.  Today we were lucky, arriving at the hotel at sundown having not screamed once.

hti water kenya project blog girl hydropackThe pilot itself is settling into a routine.  Each day the five field workers fan out across the village to do their surveys, while Austen from Modern Edge continues his in-depth interviews with select households.  The Uber film crew is busy documenting the pilot and doing their own interviews (and fantastic work, from what I’ve seen), and the three community health workers are busy conducting their survey.  This sounds like it would be fairly disruptive to such a small community, but the residents here have been patient, wonderful and welcoming.

Bicycles are a good way to get around Mudimbia, and are used to transport goods as often as people.  Of course they are not quite as potent in that regard as the ubiquitous motorcycle.  Need to transport a family of five?  Check.  How about a full sized red velvet couch?  No problem.  That matching overstuffed chair?  Are you crazy? You’ll have to use a second motorcycle.  I haven’t used a motorcycle yet, but did borrow a bike yesterday and set off down the road to get a bit of exercise.  For reasons I can’t quite grasp, this struck the Mudimbiites as rather amusing, so I did what any adult with impugned honor would do; I challenged a couple of kids to a bike race.  A couple of kids on one bike.  They turned out to be gracious in victory and I soon spotted Dadi, my opposing driver, running down the red dirt road to show me his squealing piglet.

The pilot is, in my mind, already an overwhelming success.  We knew that the HydroPack works in any water, filters water to extraordinarily pure levels, and reduces transportation costs by 15X.  What we hadn’t been able to measure is cultural acceptance and the degree of training burden the technology would bring.  On these scores, I am very pleased.  One interesting indicator is that there appears to be very little difference between age groups or genders in their acceptance of the HydroPack.  Everybody seems to universally love it, and unfortunately they might be using them too quickly to last the 10-day pilot period.  One family told me today that their daughter took HydroPacks to school today to teach her teachers about the technology.  Another girl drank 20 in one day!  Will distressed populations drink HydroPacks during emergencies?  They will, they’ll stay safely hydrated, and they’ll love the taste.

More importantly, there is a deeper understanding and appreciation for what the technology can do for the community during the next flood that is certain to sweep over this area, an understanding with roots in past disasters.

hti water kenya project blog bike raceBoneface, who takes courses in community development and is the father of Sharon, the champion 20-HydroPack drinking girl, put it this way:

“The flooding was so worse. The crops were destroyed.  There was no food.  The water systems were all destroyed.  We were forced to drink from the river, and there was a lot of sickness. There was a lot of cholera.  The HydroPack would be very good, we wouldn’t even need a basin, we could just put them in the water.  The government brought us some technologies, but the instructions were a problem, and handling was a problem.  The water became contaminated again, and people were still getting sick.”

Boneface’s comments bring up a major strength of the HydroPack:  the pouch is its own sanitary container.  The drink is consumed through a straw, and there is no re-contamination from handling and transferring to drinking containers. 

His neighbor, Pamela, agrees on the merits of the pouch, noting that everyone loves them.  Her concern:  will the HydroPack get to them in the event of an emergency?