Children who drink unclean water or expose themselves to poor sanitation and hygiene face seriously heightened health risks. Young children are the first to get sick and die from waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea and malaria. Out of the 2.2 million diarrheal deaths each year, the majority are children under the age of five. In areas with unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, children are also at risk for parasitic illnesses such as guinea worm and trachoma. Health outcomes range from child weakness to blindness and death. Poor hygiene increases the likelihood of these diseases and this occurs frequently among children in urban poverty.
Splash emerged in 2007 to bring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs to children in urban poverty around the world. Splash’s 1,779 program sites in schools, orphanages, hospitals and shelters support over 400,000 kids every day in eight countries. This includes Nepal (101,149 kids), China (84,234), Ethiopia (73,622), Cambodia (71,234), India (49,404), Bangladesh (20,603), Thailand (10,385) and Vietnam (18,365).
Splash focuses on harnessing the technology, infrastructure and supply chains already in use in large cities for solutions that serve the poor. The nonprofit’s founder, Eric Stowe, saw that hotels and restaurants had access to clean water, but the children in poor schools and orphanages across the street did not. Stowe saw this as an easy problem to fix by leveraging the existing economies and infrastructure.
Everything Splash does begins with ensuring access to safe water. Its water purification system removes 99.9999 percent of bacterial pathogens. Splash has the water regularly checked for quality which has reduced costs and maintained reliability. Splash’s point-of-use filtration is much more cost-effective and durable than typical approaches. Well-digging projects are often expensive, time-consuming and do not always work for urban areas. Additionally, Splash’s stainless steel taps last infinitely longer than plastic ones. This approach to clean water is very sustainable. No new chemicals add to the environment and people reuse contaminated water in a gray water system.
Hygiene Education and Behavioral Change
Splash believes it is not enough for a child to drink safe water. It also encourages long-term behavioral change and improved hygiene through student hygiene clubs, child-to-child training and school events. It provides hygiene training for teachers and conducts soap drives at every school. Five-hundred and forty schools have received hygiene education, hygiene education has impacted 328,666 kids and people have donated 145,241 bars of soap.
In addition to installing high-quality filtration systems, Splash provides colorful, child-friendly drinking and handwashing stations that have been field-tested to make sure kids are excited to use them. Often children in urban poverty must drink and wash their hands from the same spigot; however, Splash separates drinking fountains and hand-washing taps to reduce the risk of water re-contamination. Splash uses fun, kid-centered learning materials to teach kids how to properly wash their hands with soap and develop good personal hygiene.
By leveraging the clean water supply chain, Splash works to improve bathrooms in public schools to meet global standards for safety, privacy, cleanliness and accessibility. It ensures safe and secure toilets, water for flushing, gender-segregated toilets and bins for menstrual hygiene management. So far, Splash has reached 48,802 children in urban poverty in Ethiopia, Nepal and India with improved sanitation through 91 sites. Mirrors, colorful facilities and information are helping to motivate behavioral change and encourage proper toilet use by girls and boys.
Goals for the Future
Splash is a unique nonprofit because it aims to become “irrelevant”, “obsolete” and “unnecessary” by 2030. Just as everything begins with clean water, Splash aims to complete all projects with a sustainable and strategic exit.
The ultimate goal is ensuring local success on its own time, its own terms, through its own talent and with its own funding. This is why Splash designs each program to have local roots, and be economically stable and enduring. It intends the solutions to live on as the ownership transitions from Splash staff to local owners.
As of 2016, Splash was on track for each of its ambitious goals. This includes WASH program coverage for all 650 public schools in Kathmandu, Nepal by 2020 and all 400 public schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by 2022.
Splash is a great example of a forward-thinking international nonprofit with a clear vision to develop long-lasting WASH solutions for children in urban poverty. The world requires lots of work to ensure affordable and clean water, sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor, but organizations like Splash are making progress.
– Camryn Lemke