HTI has delivered thousands of HydroPack emergency water filters to flood-ravaged Western Kenya, where flooding along the Nzoia River in Western Kenya has left thousands of homes and small farms under water. The area was the site of a HydroPack demonstration pilot funded jointly by Eastman Chemical and HTI in January of 2011.
The floodwaters, spilling over and through the River Nzoia dike system, have ravaged the homes and livelihoods of some 25,000 people, leaving them homeless and scattered across eleven camps in the area of Mudimbia and Port Victoria. Schools and clinics have been converted to displacement camps, while others make do under tarpaulin tents.
The flood came in the night, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in the dark.
"We could hear that the stream near our home sounded different. That was about 10 P.M. We went and looked at the dike and could see that the water was about to come over, so we packed our things and set them on the road. Only the beds remained in the house," said Maureen Obara, a 29 year old mother of six children. "About 3 A.M. the water flooded the home to waist-high. The children were scared, and crying, but there was nothing to do but sit on the road and wait for morning."
The next morning, the family waded into the flooded fields and harvested maize to feed the family. And that is where, two weeks later, the family still sits under their torn tarpaulin tent, sharing the road with about 100 other families. "We are waiting for news from the government," she adds.
"We are seeing an elevated number of diarrhea cases with the children, but so far no cholera," said Assistant Chief John Kudombi of the Mabinju Sub-Location. "But water is a top priority right now, along with shelter and food. Some of the camps are getting water delivered by the government, but other camps are not accessible by road, and are getting nothing."
It was to those camps lacking road access the HydroPacks were delivered, transported first by canoe, then by motorcycle, bicycles or carried on foot.
The HydroPack filters water using the natural process of Forward Osmosis. Each single-use pouch contains an osmotic charge (nutrient powder containing sugars and electrolytes) that is activated when the pouch is placed in any water source. The osmotic charge draws contaminated water through the Forward Osmosis membrane, which in the case of the HydroPack, is its packaging. After a period of 10-12 hours, the pouch is full and ready to drink, delivering hydration and 120 calories. The HydroPacks were delivered in three flavors: orange, lemon-lime and grape.
"There is such high demand for the HydroPack here," says Assistant Chief Kudombi. "Everybody is asking for it and word is spreading quickly. Not only does it clean the water and make it safe, it gives my people energy which is very important right now."
The non-powered HydroPack is unique in its use of osmosis as the driving force to filter contaminated water. A major benefit of that design is the HydroPacks ability to deliver very high purity fluids yet not be sensitive to the amount of dirt in the water.
"Flooded latrines and dead animals mean the bacteria count is very high in the water, which is also very muddy. Those are difficult conditions for water filters. But the HydroPack is ideal for this situation because of its simplicity, high purity and ability to work in muddy water. The training is very short, and sufficient know-how quickly spread through the camps, so we see a very high degree of proper use immediately," says Nathan Jones of HTI, who witnessed the distribution.
"But even if the flood victims don't fully appreciate the wonder of the HydroPack technology, they definitely appreciate the taste," says Jones. "When I asked one woman in the camp what she thought the primary reason for using the HydroPack was, she simply said 'because it tastes good'. That's a really important advantage the HydroPack brings; in a high stress situation, it motivates disaster victims to drink pure fluids simply because they like the taste."
The HydroPacks were donated by employees of Eastman Chemical and HTI. "We wanted to give something back to the community that received us so graciously during our pilot demonstration earlier this year," explained Keith Lampi, COO of HTI. "Because this area of Kenya sees is prone to flooding, we wanted to make sure there was a supply of HydroPacks for future use. We're just sorry that future came so soon."