Household Water Treatment & safe Storage program in Malawi promises to be successful

As part of his MSc thesis, our intern Thijs Merton did research in Malawi and Ethiopia to create a framework for monitoring programs surrounding Household Water Treatment and safe Storage (HWTS). This framework is to help effectively show program results and attract subsequent funding. He recently visited Malawi and Ethiopia, read the follow-up on his story on Ethiopia here:

‘I am excited to announce that the Household Water Treatment and safe Storage (HWTS) program in Malawi which is still in its inception phase, proves to be promising. The program in Ethiopia is already in full swing, with supply barely keeping up with the demand!

In Malawi, I assessed which areas would best fit a pilot for the ‘Safe Water for All in Malawi (SWAM)’ program, and which outcomes could be expected and thus monitored for. Furthermore, I assessed which channels would be suitable for distribution and promotion. By putting access to safe water in the hands of Malawians themselves by treating drinking water at point of use, occurrence of waterborne diseases can be lessened significantly, allowing people to live a healthier and happier life. Furthermore, HWTS saves time not having to wait at a water kiosk or borehole for safe water. Wells are abundant but often contaminated and thus not safe for drinking, a notion I confirmed through performing e.coli tests using a testing method produced by Akvo called Caddisfly. Together with a large number of committed partners, including UNICEF, WaterAid, AMREF, United Purpose and PumpAid, the foundation has been laid for market-based distribution pilots in Lilongwe and Kasungu. It proves to be difficult, however, to get the Malawian water utilities on board, as their participation would imply they acknowledge the water they provide is not always completely safe.

In Ethiopia, where water filters are distributed through a market approach by water utilities, a third utility recently joined the program. After Debre Markos and Finote Selam, Injibara water utility (Amhara region) proves extremely determined in making this program a success. In the first month, before the official start of the program, they already sold over 250 water filters without any promotion. The total sales of the program amount to 3,000 water filters, helping 12,000 to 15,000 Ethiopians. Next to the baseline study I performed, I am setting up a potential system for the water utilities in Finote Selam, Debre Markos and Injibara to track the sales of their water filters. By using Akvo FLOW, they will be able to monitor their sales and make the program eligible for carbon credit funding. Drinking water no longer has to be boiled to make it safe, preventing the emission of CO2.

It is inspiring to see the initiative the water utilities, our local consultant in Ethiopia and representatives of the zones and the woredas (municipality or district) in Ethiopia take, and how in Malawi all partner organizations believe in the potential of this market-based approach.