Reducing fluoride levels through a unique partnership in Nairobi County

U.S. Under Secretary for Commerce  Gil Kaplan launches a water treatment facility at the Little Sisters of St. Francis in Kasarani. The facility installed will remove dangerous naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the area’s drinking water supplyFluoride is a complicated mineral, with the ability to help or hinder human health. Small amounts of fluoride in drinking water can help strengthen teeth and bones. But consuming too much fluoride can lead to severe health complications, such as dental decay, brittle and deformed bones, developmental delays in children, kidney failure and more.

Unfortunately, Nairobi and Kenya’s Great Rift Valley contain some with the highest naturally-occurring levels of fluoride in the world. As a result, nearly 20 million Kenyans ingest toxic levels of the mineral and suffer the effects of high fluoride concentrations in their groundwater.

But thanks to a unique partnership between USAID KIWASH and The Dow Chemical Company (DOW), and in collaboration with the Little Sisters of St. Francis (LSOSF), one community in Nairobi County has reason to hope.

Through the project, DOW’s corporate responsibility program donated an energy-efficient filtration system to remove the high levels of fluoride from the water, making it suitable for human consumption. KIWASH provided technical assistance and infrastructure support to expand the existing water pipeline, install an efficient pump and construct two additional water kiosks.

The project benefits over 6,000 students, patients, and community members with access to safe drinking water. “Our long desired dream has come true. Where partnership exists, the fruits are seen and today, we have access to safe and adequate drinking water because of the partnership initiated by USAID and Dow,” said Sister Irimina Nungari.

The project was commissioned at the St. Francis Community Hospital and learning institutions on June 29 by the U.S. Under Secretary for Commerce, Gilbert Kaplan. LSOSF provides pastoral care and runs a community hospital, primary school, secondary school, vocational center, and shelter for street children in a community of over 30,000 people. In addition to reducing fluoride levels in water, the project also builds the capacity of small water suppliers, increasing efficiency and coverage of water services. Critically, it demonstrates how the private sector can respond to such challenges using available technology.

“Through the collaboration with Dow and Little Sisters, we have managed to address the immediate challenge of water services and the quality of water within the institution and the wider community. This project allowed us come together to find a way to solve a major challenge that could not be resolved without collaboration,” said Joe Sanders, KIWASH chief of party.

DOW and KIWASH will continue providing training to the facility operators on business management skills to improve effective on-site operations and ensure the long-term sustainability of the project.

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