Cyclone Idai
Nearly a month after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, officials and civilians are working to clean up the disaster zone. The Category 2 storm first hit near the city of Beira, an important port in Southern Africa, on March 14th and 15th. Winds during this period exceeded 105 miles per hour. The northern provinces of Mozambique are now beginning the reconstruction process.

The deadly storm left 603 people dead, though officials suspect many more unidentified victims washed out to sea. Additionally, Cyclone Idai destroyed 110,000 homes, wiped away entire towns and left rich farmland waterlogged. The people of the northern provinces depend on food from this farmland for both survival and business.

An Uphill Battle Against Poor Infrastructure

Mozambique struggles with a lack of access to quality healthcare, education and infrastructure. As a result, the nation is ranked 218 out of 223 countries with an average life expectancy of 51.4 years. Their impoverished status makes it difficult for them to recover from natural disasters.

The country requires aid from outside sources to rebuild in the north where Cyclone Idai first met the coastline. The United Nations’ fundraising appeal to cover the initial costs totaled $282 million USD. Hospitals-in-boxes are being transported by boat, food is being dropped from planes and 900,000 cholera vaccines have recently arrived in Beira. The vaccines are being distributed in the north as part of an effort led by Doctors Without Borders.

The Added Challenge of Cholera

Despite vaccination efforts, the cholera outbreak is continuing to spread because people still do not have access to clean water in the wake of Cyclone Idai. Residents of Biera are facing the brunt of the outbreak due to poor water infrastructure and overcrowding. Many of these residents have been moved to displacement camps with equally poor conditions.

There are 3100 confirmed cases of cholera as of March 27th, with six deaths. Health volunteers and officials in Beira are hoping that cholera cases will fall in response to the restoration of running water. However, this running water can only reach 60 percent of the city’s residents.

Dr. Katrin Duget from the Pioneros Centre explains that the use of antiretroviral drugs is a good solution for the time being. Well-equipped health facilities are heading distribution efforts.

A Nation Moving Forward

Many civilians will struggle to move forward, as they have to work to rebuild entire communities and homes. For now, it is important to focus on longer-term solutions such as an investment in vaccines. Cholera can also be treated by simple rehydration, but it must come quickly because the disease can kill within hours. The water filters being installed by the UN are helping communities gain access to clean water to hydrate properly.

In the months after disasters such as Cyclone Idai, it is important to look at proactive measures that can be taken before another crisis strikes. These include food education programs as well as vaccinations which can help civilians survive during a lack of widespread resources.

Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

Africa’s water problemTo address Africa’s water problem, tech startups like HydroIQ are stepping in to digitize the water accessibility and billing system for consumers.

According to the U.N., two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025, and the majority of these people will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The African region already faces constant problems due to the scarcity of water that sometimes never reaches the consumers.

In Africa, as much as 50 percent of the water supplied by utilities is lost before actually reaching the consumer, all because of an inefficient and poorly managed distribution network. Additionally, the cost burden of water losses is borne by the consumers, making the whole experience expensive and troublesome.

To address Africa’s water problem, HydroIQ intends on making water more accessible to the people of Africa through technology. Powered by three major technologies, the Kenya-based water-monitoring startup relies on the internet of things, data analytics and payment automation.

Named the top African startup of 2018 by Startup.Info, HydroIQ is also the world’s first virtual water network operator. The company was founded by two entrepreneurs, Brian Bosire and Victor Shikoli, who are determined to revolutionize the access and distribution of water in Africa.

HydroIQ works by using a smart metering device that, when plugged into the existing water supply network, can turn the traditional water system into a smart water grid. It can be installed in households to track consumption in real-time. In this way, consumers only pay for what they use. The payment for the consumption is also digitized and made easy – its pay-as-you-go basis is powered using mobile money. Additional benefits allow consumers to receive notifications when the water is running low. The real-time leak detection also sends alerts for early detection and prompt action.

According to sources, as much as 45 percent of revenue is lost due to lack of infrastructure and poor bill payment systems. With HydroIQ, such barriers can be overcome and consumers can pay with the most preferred mode of payment, mobile money. The company has partnered with local water utilities to address the issue of water access across Africa.

Innovative tech startups can help Africa achieve sustainable development and efficient water management across cities. Globally, Africa is urbanizing at a very fast pace and fixing the water problem is becoming increasingly important. According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return between $3 and $34.

The startup intends on solving Africa’s water problem by making its business model sustainable, scalable and adaptable through the use of digital technologies. By focusing on providing African consumers the ease and convenience to pay for what they use, the digitized process will further reduce the upfront costs for the consumers, delivering a high standard value to its customers.

In 2018, HydroIQ will install meters in 1,500 households and intends on expanding and developing market insights to cater to the consumers’ needs. With a goal of reaching 34,000 homes by 2019, it aims to grow over 300,000 in the next five years.

As more and more tech startups step forward to address crucial issues like Africa’s water problem and the region’s credit access problems, it is not surprising that a combination of innovation and investment may soon bring a positive change to the daily lives of consumers.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr