"Water is A Source of Change": MAP International and Liquid I.V. Work with Liberian Communities to Address the Clean Water Crisis

"Water is A Source of Change": MAP International and Liquid I.V. Work with Liberian Communities to Address the Clean Water Crisis

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Pictured here: Suakoko community member uses water from hand pump well to cool off during the dry season in Liberia.

March 22 is World Water Day, which is the best day of the year to talk about the impact of water on people and the planet. Water is elemental to our biology, it powers us as individuals, and is the source of life that makes Earth our home over Saturn or Mars.

At Liquid I.V., we believe equitable access to clean and abundant water is the foundation of a healthier world. But the fact remains that two billion people across the globe do not have access to safe and clean drinking water—and two million of that number live in the United States. There is a long road ahead to reach our goal of universal water security by 2050, and through that vision we prioritize partnerships with leading water, humanitarian, and community-based organizations to fund and foster innovative solutions to help communities protect both their water and their futures. Our Impact work happens on both a domestic and global scale—whether it be the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, participating in local cleanups alongside Friends of Ballona Wetlands, or partnering with experts in the NGO space at an international level.

One of those partnerships includes MAP International, who has distributed 6.8 million serving sticks of Liquid I.V. since our partnership began three years ago. Our work with MAP International began with hydration aid, a key pillar of our impact initiatives as Liquid I.V.’s Hydration Multiplier product is an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), which is used to treat dehydration caused by illness and natural disasters. While MAP International distributes ORS in many countries, they have seen a consistent need for hydration aid in Liberia.

This West African country is steeped in tradition and a vibrant culture, rich in lush rainforests and beaches, as well as marketplaces and a growing tourism sector. Liberia is also experiencing a clean water crisis, despite having some of the heaviest rainfall averages in the world. This year, we are expanding our partnership with MAP International beyond immediate hydration aid to create durable, lasting impact through clean water projects. Our $300,000 grant supports a local NGO partner ACTS (Actions Transforming Lives) who is working alongside Liberian communities to provide access to clean water. MAP and ACTS have been engaged in the Liberian water crisis for years. According to Thomas Borwah, Executive Director of ACTS, they have already supported 20,000 people and brought 45+ handpumps to some of the most remote communities, where access to installing this infrastructure imposes a challenge in and of itself.

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Pictured here: Group of children wash hands, face and drink water from nearby creek in Doe Town, Liberia.

###A Challenging Reality  

Liberia records 118 inches of rainfall on average every year, however much of the water ends up contaminated due to stagnation. When water sits without movement, the surface is susceptible to debris, bacteria, and can cause waterborne illnesses. For many people in Liberia, the reality is the only available water to drink has a high risk of contaminants but there is often no third alternative between dehydration or illness.   

"Much of the water [in Liberia] sits in stagnant ponds and slow-moving creeks,” Sean Lavin, VP of Impact says. “90% of Liberia does not have access to safe drinking water, according to MAP International.” 

"We have sufficient water, but water is not sufficient if it is not safe for drinking. While we have enough rainfall, we don't have the facilities to transform the water into safe drinking water that our people can use,” Borwah says.  

The process for getting water often includes women and children traveling for hours, disrupting opportunities for education and building livelihoods. If wells do exist, they’ve been dug 40 feet into the ground and require someone to propel down in a strenuous fashion to retrieve the water. These options are ultimately unsafe, and the water is primed for disease.  

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Pictured here: School girl uses a makeshift cup to drink clean water out of a hand pump well outside the Fenotoli Health Center in Liberia

###Access to Safe Hydration

Our partners at MAP International are actively installing 20+ hand pump wells in Liberian communities including Fenutoli and Doe Town, as well as additional hand pumps and water filters in the neighboring country of Burkina Faso. The process of digging 40 feet to create the wells still exists, but by building the hand pump system, the steps for obtaining water become easier. These communities currently lack infrastructure such as paved roads which limit their accessibility for aid, but hand pump wells providing clean and safe drinking water are a foundational step toward the elimination of making the choice between dehydration and illness. In communities like Suakoko, where hand pump wells have already been installed for over a decade, the quality-of-life improvements have been tremendous.

####“It was the first impact trip aligned with Liquid I.V.’s shifted impact focus. Rather than focusing just on product donations and where our serving sticks of Liquid I.V. were going, we primarily focused on creating durable impact and initiatives that empower communities. It was important to learn and experience how our grants helped MAP International further their work to dig wells and install hand pumps to increase clean water access in Liberia,” Lavin says.

Far beyond convenience, the accessibility to clean water has created a life-changing ripple effect in the Suakoko community. Within the community there is a fishery, a piggery, a school with another in the process of being built, a community church, kitchens, and operating toilets. Women and children can shift their focus from obtaining water to attending school, seeking a vocation, providing for their families, and beyond.  

The difference in the water quality from the hand pumps and the water from the creeks is striking. The wells and hand pumps are closed loop set ups, which means when they’re functioning properly, they’re sanitary systems. That means the water coming from the hand pumps is actually safe to drink. 

In contrast, communities where there is unsafe drinking water, infection, disease, diarrheal diseases, childhood malnutrition, and loss of opportunities are widespread and abundant. 

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Pictured here: Doe Town community member uses new hand pump well to fill buckets with clean water.

###"The First Step to Transformation” 

“At the end of the day, seeing how one community lived without clean water access, compared to a community with clean water gave us a tangible understanding of the impact that Liquid I.V.’s purpose-driven initiatives have on the communities we reach,” Lavin says.  

“This is just the beginning of our dedication to the work of expanding clean water access. Our goal is to do even more work to create a more resilient, healthy world with wider availability to clean water,” he says.


####**“The ****WASH **work in Liberia is so important because it goes out into communities that no one else is going out into. Experiencing that this week, seeing the roads that are traveled on; it's not just bringing water to people who need it. It's bringing water to people who aren't getting it any other way.” Brooke Allison, the program manager of MAP International says. “It's so important because without clean water, you don't have health. Without health, you can't expand, you can't grow, you can't really do much because you're constantly trying to just catch up. And if you're just catching up, you're never getting ahead. Bringing in water is the first step to transforming a life and to transforming a community.”

“We need technical support, we need financial support, and we need every kind of support especially to our rural community dwellers,” Borwah says. “We will continue to cherish this partnership [with Liquid I.V. and MAP International] and cement the partnership to see how we can help our people improve their conditions and lives.”

To learn more about our Impact initiatives and how to become engaged with this work, click here.

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