According to Evidence Action, over 2 billion people lack access to water that is safe to drink, and unsafe water is responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths each year. Unsafe drinking water is a leading risk factor for infectious diseases, exacerbates malnutrition, and is the most common cause of diarrhoea — the world’s second-leading cause of child mortality.
This is a particular problem in poor rural areas, where people rely on open springs and shallow wells that are easily contaminated by human and animal waste. But according to the World Health Organization, treating water with diluted chlorine is a safe and effective way to improve water quality.
Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) programme provides chlorine dispensers to low-income communities where drinking water is often contaminated. The adoption rate for use of community chlorine dispensers is much higher (60%) than individual chlorine packages to use at home (10%).
Between 2013 and 2021, DSW estimates that it has distributed more than 28,000 dispensers in rural Africa, reached more than 4 million people, and prevented more than 1.3 million cases of childhood diarrhoea. DSW estimates that it costs less than $1.50 USD to provide safe water for one person for one year.
To ensure that the dispensers are used, DSW engages with communities and each community appoints a "promoter" for the dispensers. The programme currently has more than 54,000 community volunteers fulfilling this role.
For more information about the cost-effectiveness of this intervention, see GiveWell’s 2022 grant report.
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