Distribution Highlight: VF600s in Eswatini
By Michelle Bechchar
Despite its small population size, Eswatini (Swaziland) has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and has been greatly affected by the epidemic (UNAIDS, 2019). With this in mind, Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer began an outreach called the Community Health Intervention Program, or CHIPS in Maphiveni. It was an intervention in the local communities in eastern Swaziland for impoverished and isolated HIV affected children and their caregivers to access health care. The goal was to develop a local clinic, employing and training local Swazi’s to provide services to their communities. They began their initiative with he hope that the community could be reliant on one another, and not create a dependency on their temporary aid to the area. Because of this philosophy of theirs, they pursued solutions to the communities health crisis that would be long-lasting, and cost-efficient for them to implement and maintain.
Clean Water and CHIPS
Despite going to Eswatini with the intention of focusing on HIV risk reduction strategies, one of the needs Daran and Teresa soon noticed was that of clean water. They recognized the unclean water that the community was utilizing was directly related to their health outcomes. To improve the overall health and well-being of the community, and to move forward with the implementation of a health clinic, Daran and Teresa knew that they would also have to tackle the water problem.
The community tap draws water from a borehole as well as storage tanks, and there is no way to ensure that the water is safeguarded from contaminants that can seep into the ground reservoir. There was also a rainwater collection system installed at the clinic, which also invites contamination. We had many clinic staff sharing they were experiencing gastrointestinal problems due to the contaminated water. The clinic also sees many community members with water borne illnesses.
Both of these systems give the option for clean water instead of collecting it from the Mbuluzi River or irrigation canals. This river suffers from animal and human fecal contamination as well as contamination from the sugar cane fields and mills upstream. In addition, there are crocodiles that one also needs to avoid when collecting water as people have been taken before. Simple purification methods are also financially out of the reach of most residents: bleach or extra firewood for boiling water are commodities beyond the financial reach of most.
The VF600 Facility Water Filter
With this in mind, they decided to ensure clean water for the clinic and community with two VF600 Facility Filters. The overall project was funded through a generous gift from Rotary Club. Daran and Teresa also collaborated with community leaders to set up and regulate the system. As of early May, 2021, they finally had everything set and are excited to see the impact of these facility filters in the communities where they work. The VF600 facility filter will allow those at the clinic to drink and use clean and safe water, free from waterborne contaminants. Not only will this reduce the rates of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, but it will allow healthcare professionals access to clean, filtered, water for handwashing and sanitation. These filters will allow the clinic to have more time to focus on those affected by HIV and others with health needs.
The Future of Clean Water for Eswatini
Clean water in Eswatini continues to be a region wide issue. There are enormous gaps in access to things like clean water, and sanitation & hygiene services between urban and rural communities. A 2019 report found that an estimated 69% of the population of the country lacks access to these essential services. Oftentimes, even when infrastructure exists such as toilets or faucets, they are not operational due to age, lack of maintenance, or a combination of other factors.
However, the future for Eswatini is still bright. With innovative technologies and key players like Daran and Teresa from CHIPS, access to these essential resources is being expanded. The gap in access between urban and rural areas is being targeted by both individuals and organizations worldwide, and together we continue to work towards achieving sustainable development goal 6: access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, for all.