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Each Giants in their Field: P&G, World Vision, and PSI Partner in Rwanda

Mother & child CSDW 2I’m in Rwanda where we launched the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) Program two years ago.  My last visit was right after the launch to provide our purification packets so I’m eager to see first-hand the progress.

Boys on bench 2Today, I’ll focus on the partnership between P&G, PSI, and World Vision.  PSI is the largest social marketing organization in the world, World Vision is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, and P&G is the largest consumer products organization in the world.  So, we’ve got a lot of “largest in the world” going for us.  But what’s globally true doesn’t mean it has relevance in Rwanda.  For example, P&G has no business in Rwanda and World Vision has only recently built capacity behind their water group.  So, let’s not take it for granted that a marriage of the biggest will also be the best.  Sometimes big means arrogance, lack of speed, and insulation from reality instead of the advantages of scale, expertise, and resources.  But by focusing on our common mission to improve, and in this case to save lives, and our unique strengths, I know we can achieve more together than we can alone.

Barefoot boy 2In building a good partnership, we’ve focused on what each organization brings to the table.  P&G brings our amazing P&G purification technology, our experience in partnerships, and experience in providing the packets around the world.  PSI brings their supply chain, behavior change skills, and social marketing skills.  World Vision brings their deep presence in rural communities and trusted relationships in these areas.  Perhaps a simplified way to look at this is that P&G is providing the packets and lessons learned to PSI who is bringing the product to Rwanda and training the World Vision team who is overseeing the provision of the packets to deep rural communities where they are most needed.

Adema and CHW 2My hosts are Imelda Muhuza and John Pierre Nsenga of PSI, and Pascal Karemera and Theoneste Nkurunziza of World Vision.  I’m also thrilled to have Adema Sangale of P&G Africa join me for this visit.  Without me asking, Theoneste of World Vision says that he really likes working in the partnership with PSI.  He says they’ve brought wonderful training and behavior change expertise to bear in teaching people the proper way to use the packets.  It’s good to hear the collaboration seems to be working.

Vista 2World Vision is providing the P&G purification packets in three of their area development programs (ADPs) in the south of Rwanda about a three hour drive from the capital of Kigali.  This small country with 11 million people and about the size of Maryland now has the highest population density on the African continent.  It’s sometimes compared to Singapore because of its efficient, business-friendly government and to Switzerland because of its mountains.  To me, the countryside reminds me of Haiti because of the beautiful soaring hills where farmers seem to have perfected the art of growing cassava, maize, or coffee on the side of a mountain.

It’s a pleasant drive through the mountains and down into the valleys where irrigation is nourishing rice paddies.  Pascal tells me that Rwanda has been successful in their green revolution and now has food security. 

Boys 2World Vision puts a priority on reaching vulnerable people in partnership with the local government.  At the door-to-door level, this means working in partnership with the government’s community health workers (CHWs).  We arrive at our first stop and meet Francine Damour, one of the CHWs for this ADP. 

Demo 1 dirty water 2Francine tells me that she’s been a CHW for 4 years.  She volunteers for this job and it’s important to her because she likes helping her community members.  It’s a prestigious job that she was elected to do by her community.  While she wants to continue to be a CHW, there are frequent reassessments by the government to judge performance.  If you’re not doing a good job, then you’re replaced. 




CHW 2Like other people in this community, she walks downhill about 20 minutes to collect her water from a stream.  She really likes using the P&G packets to make her water clean.  As a health promoter in this community, she’s long known about the importance of purified water.  So she used firewood to boil her water prior to receiving the packets.  Because there is no more wood to collect in the area, she has to buy firewood.  She uses 40% less firewood now that she doesn’t have to boil and this has been a nice bonus for her household budget.  More importantly she tells us that boiling is very time intensive and it’s difficult to keep enough boiled water for her family. 

CHW boy with Cup 2JPGWe drink the purified river water and meet Ticonde, Francine’s son.  Quite a crowd has gathered in the time that we prepared the purified water in Francine’s home. 

Woman with umbrella 2




In front of her friends, she thanks P&G, PSI, and World Vision for giving her a powerful tool to help the community.  She tells us that thanks to the packets she is able to reach 200 households.

Woman 2 with latrine 2



We walk a little ways in the community to the home of Maripeurit Mukankosi.  She’s very eager to welcome us into her home.  I ask for a brief tour of her home and she’s happy to accommodate me  She’s proud to show that she has a latrine in the back of her compound.  In this area with relatively low sanitation coverage, it’s good to see she’s proud of her toilet.

Woman 2 demo 2




By the efficient and knowledgeable way that Maripeurit uses the packets, I can tell she’s a regular user.  Our conversation reveals the same, particularly in her clear enthusiasm for the product.  She collects water from an unprotected spring and frequently it’s visibly dirty water.  We can see the water is dirty now and she says it will be very filthy in a few weeks when the rainy season starts.

Demo 2 woman 1 drinking 2Similar to Francine, Maripeurit used to boil water before receiving the P&G packets and has needed to buy less firewood.  However, she admits that she just didn’t have the time to boil enough water for her family so they frequently drank untreated water.  She says that with the packets, it’s simple for her to make 10 liters of treated water every day.  And, she seems confident that her family’s health has improved since treating her water regularly for the past six months. 

Kids in yard 2Maripeurit says that the waterborne illness was so frequent in her family that she frequently had to take at least one of her children to the clinic.  But, she’s not had to make a single trip to the clinic for waterborne illness in the last six months.  She’s such a converted user that she insists on having treated water even if she goes to visit a neighbor.

Boy with CSDW cup 2The results in this community have been impressive and there have only been a few suggestions that I have to improve the effort.  One of my suggestions has to do with the allotment of the number of packets since some people have received much more than they can use and others have not received enough.  As we’ve heard from our visits, one packet per day per household usually meets their needs for drinking water.  It’s reassuring to hear that those who received too much product have already made plans to share their extra stock with their neighbors before it expires in another year.

Women 3 with dirty water 2We’ve traveled a long ways to reach these communities and it will take a long time to get back to Kigali but I ask for patience from the team to press on to another ADP.  After another long drive, we reach the home of Bonafred Mukahigiro.  As she shows us the water she’s collected and starts to show us how she uses the packets, I ask a simple question that turns into a long conversation.  The question is where she usually collects her drinking water and where did the water that she has today come from.  I’m asking through a translator and 2 different World Vision staff and then Imelda tries to understand her answer.  Ten minutes later there’s still confusion.

Women 3 at spring 2To try and resolve the situation, I ask her to take us to the water sources.  Further up the hill, she points to a spot where we can see people gathering water from a piped supply that runs intermittently depending on the power supply.  She’s not able to afford this water and says it doesn’t often run.  For the second source, it’s a steep decent to a protected spring.  We lose much of our group who decide they can forgo the mountain hike.  It’s a treat for me.  We’d understood that the very dirty water was from a swamp that was closer to her home.  But at the spring she tells us the swamp water is even further away.  Our best guess is that she wanted to impress us by gathering the dirtiest water she could find to demonstrate her knowledge of using the packets. 

Failed demo 2Bonafred is surprised when I insist on carrying the spring water back up the hill.  She’s clearly not used to men helping carry water.  She has two containers and http://www.psi.orgone of the World Vision young male staff also agrees to help with the water-carrying burden.  While Bonafred has tried to impress us, it’s back-fired.  This swamp water is so filthy that it overwhelms the capacity of the water packets.  I ask our team to explain carefully to her that as long as she has access to the protected spring she should not use the packets to treat water that is dirtier.

Women 4 demo 2I ask for one more stop before heading back to Kigali and the results are a little more comforting.  Agnus Mukamana is the mother of six children.  Her youngest child, Felician, is a World Vision sponsored child.  Agnus collects spring water but it’s visibly dirty water.  She tells us that she didn’t do anything to treat her water before having the P&G packets and now understands that waterborne illness was having a major impact on her family.  She says that she felt she was always going to the clinic in the past and is very grateful now that Felician and her other children are healthy.

World Vision & Psi team 2I’m truly thankful to World Vision and PSI for this partnership.  It’s allowing us to provide 15 million liters of clean drinking water in rural Rwanda.  As giants in our respective industries, it’s heartening that we’re humble enough to learn from each other, to lean on each other for the strengths that we can each provide, and that together we’re making a difference.


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