Coca-Cola and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) alongside a host of local organisations in Naivasha, have commissioned the second phase of a Sh42.5 million two-year initiative to provide residents of Naivasha with access to de-fluorinated water.

The project was motivated by the fact that the low income residents of Naivasha’s peri-urban settlements not only suffer from inadequate water and sanitation services but also endure the health impacts of extremely high fluoride levels found naturally in the water.

Young children experience gradual browning and chipping of their teeth. This condition, known as fluorosis, is a lifelong disease which gradually leads to debilitating skeletal deformities.

WUSUP has been working through its network of local and regional institutions in the water sector to alleviate this menace with funding from The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company in Africa.

Approximately 30,000 people have been able to access safe drinking water through the first phase of water de-fluoridation. The second phase, launched on Tuesday to coincide with World Water Day celebrations to be marked on March 21, is a scale-up of the quest to eradicate fluorosis among low income households in line with this year’s World Water Day theme ‘Water Cooperation’.

“Coca-Cola recognises that the responsibility of delivering access to clean water to communities, demands a broad-based approach involving Government, the NGO sector and Private sector companies. Therefore, the objective of our involvement in the project is to increase the number of people in the target communities who are being sustainably supplied with general purpose water and fluoride risk-free drinking water by harnessing the skills of various partners,” said Patrick Pech, General Manager, Coca-Cola Sabco.

Some of the local organisations involved in the project include, Vitens Evides International, Naivawass – the local water utility, Rift Valley Water Services Board (RVWSB), Municipal Council of Naivasha (MCN), District Public Health Office and the Nakuru Defluoridation Company (NDC).

Dental and skeletal fluorosis are a result of prolonged consumption of water containing high levels of fluoride. The main source of water in Naivasha is boreholes and most of the underground water is characterised by high levels of fluoride, sometimes as high as 10mg/litre (the WHO recommended level is 1.5mg/litre).

Low income residents of Kamere, Kiu and Mirera cannot afford to purchase household water filters or bottled water.

Pech added that as a global water stewardship leader, Coca-Cola is deeply committed to building a water-sustainable business and encouraging others to follow this example by advancing the awareness of water conservation and science.

Fluorosis presents with browning of the tooth enamel in dental fluorosis and deformed joints and bones in skeletal fluorosis. These conditions are irreversible.

To minimise the health impact of high fluoride levels, WSUP and TCCAF have taken the initiative to develop water distribution networks that include water kiosks fitted with de-fluoridation filters using local bone char technology. These filters have reduced fluoride levels from 9mg/litre to as low as 0.05mg/litre, greatly improving the quality of consumption water and reducing the risk of fluorosis and a host of other harmful health effects.

These new water kiosks make treated water accessible and affordable to low-income urban communities. Twenty litres of treated water costs just Sh3 compared to bottled water from the supermarket which costs is in the range of Sh250 – Sh500 for 5 litres. With the help of trained Community Health Workers, the project is raising awareness through door to door campaigns and school activations.

Over the last five years, WSUP has supported water companies, municipal authorities and ministerial departments to develop practical and sustainable water and sanitation service models that can reach many more people as compared to the traditional ones.

“This has been very successful in Kenya so far and this partnership with TCCAF not only ascertains confidence in these models, but serves as a very noble social investment to scale-up and reach the unserved low income residents of Naivasha,” said Kariuki Mugo Country Programme Manager, WSUP Kenya.

The stakeholders and beneficiaries toured the project area before launching the Fluoride Eradication Campaign as well commissioning Community Health Workers for their door to door and school activations.