Faced with the lack of drinking water in Rwanda, initiatives are emerging to enable every citizen, regardless of their geographical location, to have access to drinking water. According to UNICEF, less than 50% of the population in this East African country has access to drinking water within 30 minutes of their homes. Hence the idea of providing people with clean water for consumption from underground sources.
Clean water is becoming rare in some parts of Africa. This worrying situation even led Macky Sall, current president of the African Union, to sound the alarm on the scarcity of water resources at the 9th World Water Forum in Senegal. In Rwanda, some populations are virtually deprived of drinking water.
Indeed, the Nyabugogo River, located near the capital Kigali, is an important source of water for the local population. Families use it for washing and cleaning. But when they need drinking water, poor communities look for underground water sources, which are dangerous to health. People line up to collect cans of water, but if the water is not clean, they are at risk of disease.
Purify ground water
Thus, the alternative is to have the water treated by commercial companies. With this in mind, some companies such as Iriba are trying to make water clean, safe and accessible to all. The latter, with its plant based in Kigali, is committed to purifying groundwater. According to Yvette Ishimwe, Managing Director of Iriba Water Group, “ The aim of this project is to provide people with access to clean water, especially those who do not have access to it. We mainly target low-income people, like our vending machines in public places, in markets, in car parks, we target low-income people who can’t afford bottled water. This mission aims to provide the population and the poorest with good quality water.
Good quality water, closer to the people
Kimironko market is a typical area where low-income communities work and shop. This is where Iriba has installed one of its water kiosks. The company targets high-traffic areas such as markets and public car parks. Thirsty workers stop for a short break and buy a glass of water they know is safe and affordable. This neighbourhood is not the only one to benefit from this project, as schools have also been equipped with vending machines.
What’s more, these dispensers don’t need to be manned; a simple press of a payment card is enough to get the water flowing. Students pay a subscription fee for unlimited access to water during the school term, with no upfront cost to the school. Ishimwe explains that his company has adapted the dispenser to the needs of schools. “Many schools do not have drinking water facilities. Students just drink tap water, which is not safe to drink. They have problems with diarrhoea, typhoid and other diseases related to drinking contaminated water,” she explains. She calls her project “Tap and Drink for Schools” and explains that subscriptions cost only 1,500 francs per term. An innovation that brings hope to the water-starved populations of Rwanda.