The main source of water in Naivasha is bore-
holes and most of the underground water is
characterized by high levels of fluoride
NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Joy Wanjiru is barely 10 but her teeth are already brown. She is still too young to comprehend what happened to her teeth. Her mother, Lucy Nyokabi is concerned that her daughter might not get a suitor in future.
Wanjiru is among other hundreds of other children her age in Naivasha suffering from a condition known as fluorosis.
Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of dental enamel caused by excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. The risk of fluoride overexposure occurs between the ages of three months and eight years.
In its mild forms (which are its most common), fluorosis often appears as unnoticeable, tiny white streaks or specks in the enamel of the tooth.
In its most severe form, tooth appearance is marred by discoloration or brown markings. The enamel may be pitted, rough and hard to clean. The spots and stains left by fluorosis are permanent and may darken over time.
Nyokabi who is a casual worker in one of the flower farms in Naivasha says she cannot afford to take her daughter to a dentist.
However, Naivasha residents have a reason to smile as Coca-Cola and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) alongside a host of local organizations in Naivasha, have commissioned the second phase of a 42.5 million shillings two-year initiative to provide them 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 (TCCAF), 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 earlier this week to coincide with World Water Day celebrated 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 recognizes 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 organizations 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 is 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 characterized by high levels of fluoride, sometimes as high as 10mg/litre. World Health Organization’s recommended level is 1.5mg/litre.
Low income residents of Kamere, Kiu and Mirera in Naivasha cannot afford to purchase household water filters or bottled water.
Pech said fluorosis presents with browning of the tooth enamel in dental fluorosis and deformed joints and bones in skeletal fluorosis. These conditions are irreversible.
To minimize 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 3 shillings compared to bottled water from the supermarket which costs is in the range of 250 to 500 shillings for five 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 low income residents,” Kariuki Mugo, WSUP Kenya Country Program Manager said.