Friday, December 30, 2005

WATERPARTNERS INTERNATIONAL: Support Against The World's #1 Health Problem

More than 100,000 people in 146 communities have been helped by WaterPartners International (WPI) since 1990 to develop safe water supplies and to improve their sanitation systems. In addition to that, they have helped more than 100,000 people in Iraq through emergency relief efforts to gain access to safe water supplies.

All of WPI's projects are self-sustaining with organizational and financial structures in place to allow the partner communities to independently operate and maintain them. One way this has been done is through active local water committees that govern the operation of the water system, and another is through having users pay a water bill to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the water system.

WPI's Vision is stated as follows:

"We envision the day when everyone in the world can take a safe drink of water. It is easy to take for granted ready access to a safe supply of drinking water. Yet, more than one billion people lack this most basic commodity. Creating accessible, safe water supplies in developing countries liberates people to live healthier, fuller, more productive lives."

With the goals of drawing attention to unsafe and inadequate water supplies as the world's number one health problem and raising funds to help fight this problem--one community at a time. WPI sees its Mission as:

"To Inspire people to act:"

To Inspire Donors "to provide consistent financial resources with a sense of solidarity for those in need of safe water"

To Inspire Staff and volunteers "to seek innovative and efficient solutions to meeting the global water supply needs of today and tomorrow"

To Inspire People in need of safe water "to take the lead in meeting their own needs
Together, these people form the "waterpartnership" that will allow us to realize our vision."

WPI says that it wants to develop high quality, sustainable water projects - "We use our expertise to foster high-quality, sustainable, community-level water supply projects. We promote innovative solutions that enable communities to take a leading role in solving their own water supply problems."

They also say that they want to enable donors to invest wisely - "We exist to create a global awareness of the water supply crisis and to help people respond. We carefully invest donors' funds in only the highest quality projects through locally-based water development organizations. We hold ourselves accountable to donors and to people who benefit from the projects they support."

WaterPartners states that it is hard for people in wealthy nations - who have access to clean water at the turn of the tap - to imagine that safe and adequate drinking water is still only a dream for more than one billion people in developing countries who must walk long distances to get the water (that is often contaminated) they need for drinking, cooking, and bathing. And at least 50% of the world's population lacks access to adequate sanitation. WPI wants to create projects that work to help communities achieve access to safe drinking water.

WaterPartners International challenges the traditional approach to assisting people in developing countries to obtain water by working with partner organizations of a high quality that have proven their ability to implement sustainable water projects. Through this method, they have helped the many thousand of people that are a part of their success stories in gaining access to safe water.

WaterPartners projects are funded through innovative methods that include: grants, loans or a combination of both. WPI states that the "idea of building community-based water supply projects through a combination of grants and loans is new to the water sector." And that, "until now, most water projects facilitated by other organizations offering assistance have been funded in their entirety by grants, even when the individuals served by the project have the means to share costs."

Recognizing the ability of poor people to help pay for their own water projects since WPI has follow that strategy since its first water project in 1990 in Honduras.

Before 2005, all of WaterPartners projects were grant projects, with the communities paying a portion of the capital cost of the water systems up front. The communities paid their portion up front.

WPI believes that "communities must share in the capital cost of the project if water and sanitation systems in developing countries are to continue functioning over the long term." They state that this not only increases the chances of the project being successful, but it also allows us to finance more projects in other communities. In addition to this, each household pays a user fee, which goes towards paying the operation and maintenance costs associated with the new water system.

This innovative concept of WPI is termed "WaterCredit." Under this program, credit is provided through existing water supply organizations and micro-credit organizations.

These organizations repay the loans with the funds generated by water fees mentioned above. These fees, by the way, are far less than the price paid by the world's poor to private water vendors. In this way, WaterCredit becomes a tool by which new funds can be generated for further loans for new water projects.

WaterCredit allows the communities to spread payments out over time through a loan. And it WaterPartners to help communities who can afford to pay the entire amount of their project's cost over time but not as one lump sum before construction begins. WaterPartners says that WaterCredit is "a true social entrepreneurial organization" by bringing to developing nations the concept of credit that is taken for granted in countries like the United States.

WPI has brought its support to communities in the following countries:

El Salvador
Kenya and
The Philippines

But we only have time to take a quick glance at two such projects.

In Kenya , WaterPartners is working in the Kisumu region which lies on the equator, and has a hot climate all year. Within Kisumu there are four ongoing rural projects. They are located in Chiga, Kumrango, Mahenya, and Mbeme. These four projects will serve a total of 7,800 people who badly need access to water.

While WaterPartners has projects in the regions of Tigray and Oromia of Ethiopia , it cites its project in Tigray as one of its success stories on its web site.

A very short summary of the Tigray story is a follows:

"WaterPartner's first major project in Tigray was completed in 2005. The project is serving 32,000 people in 76 communities and six schools. WaterPartners is currently working on a new water project in Samre which will serve 4,500 people.

Tigray is a region in northern Ethiopia that borders on Sudan. Unlike some of the regions in the higher elevations, temperatures in Tigray are usually quite high. Tigray is often one of the regions that is hardest hit by drought and crop failure. According to our partner organization, malnutrition is now serious to severe in the worst-affected areas."

While WPI is particularly proud of its efforts in Tigray, it has a lot more going on in Ethiopia .

In fact, WaterPartners International has a lot going on, Period!

See for yourself - WaterPartners International

WaterPartners International is also a Project Sponsor of Global Giving

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