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Posts Tagged ‘Kenya Medical Research Institute’

Life Force KiosksIt’s with great excitement that I announce that Life Force Kiosks began operations in the Gatwekera village of Kibera today.  We launched this morning with an incredibly successful community event.  The band and Emcee did a fantastic job of gathering and entertaining crowds of people who sat in our tents and lined the street to hear about Life Force Kiosks. 

Jeremy Farkas speaking at the Life Force Kiosks launch event

Photo by Tobin Jones

A community leader opened the meeting with some rousing remarks before handing things over to our General Manager, Steve, who then gave a detailed presentation of our services.  I spoke next and outlined some of the key benefits of Life Force Kiosks.  I explained how our service offers the unique combination of affordability, convenience, effectiveness, and no impact on taste & smell.  I also reiterated the details of our weekly raffle.  We had two guest speakers who also made presentations.  Professor Karama from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Mr. Wanjohi from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MoPHS) both gave presentations discussing the health benefits of the Life Force Kiosks model.  I am extremely thankful that our two guest speakers were able to attend.  Showing the community that both KEMRI and the MoPHS support Life Force Kiosks gives us instant credibility and should help accelerate adoption. 

Crowd attending the Life Force Kiosks launch in KiberaAfter the conclusion of the presentations, the band continued to entertain the community as we passed out more leaflets and gave free samples of Life Force Kiosks treated water.  The afternoon was spent setting up the kiosks so we could immediately start selling our services and improving the water quality and storage conditions in Kibera.  Over the coming days and months I look forward to giving you regular updates on how things are going.  I’ll also be sharing both our success stories and any lessons learned. 

Dancers on stage in KiberaIn addition to the pictures in this post, I encourage you to check out our Flickr account for additional photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/33468302@N02/.  I’d like to thank Tobin Jones, a good friend and professional photographer who volunteered his time today to take some great pictures.  Over the next few days I’ll post additional pictures to the Flickr account and on our website at www.LifeForceKiosks.org

I want to thank all of you who have been following our story for over a year.  But this is just the beginning.  The exciting part starts now!

Life Force Kiosks Management Team

Photo by Tobin Jones

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I apologize for the delay in posting to the blog.  It isn’t due to lack of activity, but rather an overwhelming volume of activity as we rapidly approach the launch of Life Force Kiosks in Kibera.  I’ll write another post in the next couple of days on the launch, but first I wanted to share the results of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) testing.

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

As we have 12 vendors starting in our pilot, we decided to do a full census of water points and pulled water samples from all 12 taps.  We also pulled samples from several other taps in Kibera as well as directly from households.  As a reminder, we split each sample into four sub-samples and treated them with 0, 1, 2, or 3 ml of chlorine.  When untreated, we saw dramatically high rates of fecal contamination.  In our pilot area, about 42% of taps showed unsafe levels of coliforms in the water.  In other areas and with household samples that number was even higher. 

While that was somewhat expected, the really exciting news was that KEMRI found that only 1 ml of chlorine was enough to reduce the coliform count to safe levels.  This means that Life Force Kiosks can achieve the desired health impact without dramatically impact the taste and smell of the water.  KEMRI also tested for contamination of water containers before and after Life Force Kiosks washed them.  We tested 10 containers, and in all cases the container showed some level of contamination prior to cleaning but no unsafe contamination after the thorough cleaning with soap and chlorinated water.

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

I was asked the other day why the major promoters of liquid chlorine suggest a 3 ml dosage.  It’s a great question, and I believe they have two very good reasons for doing that.  First, they are promoting packaged chlorine across a huge geographic region and can’t adjust their dosing directions for each specific community.  If packaged chlorine like WaterGuard is being used in areas with untreated water (from wells, streams, etc.), a higher 3 ml dosage may be required.  Life Force Kiosks is fortunate to be able to conduct ongoing testing in our specific operating areas and adjust the dosage accordingly.  Second, I believe they encourage a higher dosage to ensure there is residual chlorine in the water that will prevent re-contamination.  This is not a bad idea.  However, Life Force Kiosks is in the position to offer storage container cleaning services alongside the water purification service.  This dramatically reduces the risk of recontamination so we can offer a lower dose of chlorine, thus protecting the taste and smell without dramatically increasing the likelihood of re-contamination.  We will conduct this testing on a regular basis to ensure that our model continues to be effective.

KEMRI has reviewed the results and has given us their green light to start operations in Kibera.  We are very excited to now have full confidence that our model will reduce waterborne disease, and I want to personally thank Professor Karama of KEMRI, Professor Ichinose Yoshio of Nagasaki University who works with KEMRI, and the entire KEMRI lab team.

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After a productive meeting with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) this morning, it was agreed that water testing will begin as early as this Thursday.  For those of you who enjoyed your science classes, I thought I’d share the details and objectives of the testing process.  This initial round of testing has two parts. 

The first test is to determine the optimal amount of chlorine that should be added to the water.  Drinking water is treated at the original water source before it is piped into Kibera and other slums.  We know from testing performed by the CDC last year that there is some residual chlorine in the water when it reaches the taps, but the chlorine levels are inconsistent and in some cases low enough that unsafe levels of bacteria were found.  One of the core Life Force Kiosks (LFK) services will be to “top up” chlorine levels by adding a few drops of chlorine into our customers’ water containers right after they fill them with water.  The question is how much to add.  Obviously adding more chlorine increases the safety of the drinking water (to a point).  Unfortunately, the more chlorine you add, the more the water will start to taste and smell like a swimming pool.  Not surprisingly, this is a huge barrier to adoption of liquid chlorine products in the market that give dosage instructions (3 ml chlorine per 20 liters of water) based on the assumption that there’s no chlorine already in the water. 

Impact of chlorine on water taste and qualityKEMRI will draw 200 water samples from the community and pour each sample into four smaller containers.  One container will remain untreated and the other three will be treated with 1, 2, and 3 ml of chlorine.  Then they will measure the E. coli counts for each sub-sample.  That will allow us to determine the minimum amount of chlorine needed to reduce E. coli counts down to safe levels (as determined by the World Health Organization).  Essentially we’re determining the shape and slope of the red line in the graph on the left.  Please note that the graph is purely an example and is not populated with real data. 

The second test that KEMRI is conducting is on the efficacy of our water storage cleaning methodology.  The second core service that LFK offers is to clean water storage containers with soap and chlorinated water.  We want to be sure that our cleaning methodology really reduces bacteria levels like we think it will.  To be sure, we will take 100 water storage containers directly from residents’ homes.  We’ll empty the containers and refill them with sterilized water that starts with no bacterial contamination.  After shaking the container lightly, we’ll measure the E. coli count in the water.  We’ll then clean the storage containers and repeat the process.  If our methodology is effective, we should see significant levels of E. coli in the samples taken from untreated containers, but safe levels after treatment.

The whole process will take roughly 3-4 weeks to complete, barring unexpected delays.  I look forward to sharing the results, especially to the first set of tests.  If we are correct that a smaller amount of chlorine is needed in these slum environments, it could have a huge impact on chlorine adoption in slums around the world.

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Life Force Kiosks Presentation

Life Force Kiosks Presentation

This past week I had the exciting opportunity to give a presentation on the Life Force Kiosks concept to the Kenyan Inter-agency Coordination Committee (ICC) at their quarterly National Environmental Sanitation & Hygiene conference.  The ICC is composed of the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health & Sanitation, Ministry of Water, Ministry of Education, and representatives from most major NGOs including UNICEF, Oxfam, CARE, KWAHO, and many others.  Overall there were roughly 50 attendees.

Life Force Kiosks Presentation 2

Life Force Kiosks Presentation 2

The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) invited me to present and introduce Life Force Kiosks to the major players in the water and sanitation sector.  It was fantastic to discuss our concept with so many experts in the field, and it was incredibly energizing that our model was met with nothing but positivity and excitement.

Kenya ICC Meeting

Kenya ICC Meeting

I’ll be meeting with the CPHO again next week and I’m hoping we’ll soon  have the official support of the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.  I’m also meeting with the Kenya Medical Research Institute on Monday and they’ve indicated they can begin the water testing discussed in a previous post as early as this week. 

Along with presenting at the ICC meeting, I also had the opportunity to hear about several other interesting water and sanitation programs being implemented throughout Kenya.  We also went on a field visit to a very small village where CARE has been working to set up latrines, water tanks, and hand washing stations.  They’ve done some great work and it was nice to go into the community and see how the achievements they’ve made.  I’m already thinking of how to integrate the low-cost hand washing stations into the Life Force Kiosks model.  Stay tuned for additional updates on our launch over the next few days.

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Center For Disease Control and PreventionI’m extremely excited to share news of two key strategic partners who will be working with Life Force Kiosks… the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).  The CDC and KEMRI will both be working with Life Force Kiosks to conduct baseline and ongoing water quality testing as well as several other important tests to ensure the effectiveness of our model.  I could not be more pleased to be working with organizations that bring such a high level of expertise and credibility in the area of health impact effectiveness evaluation. 

Kenya Medical Research InstituteAlong with baseline and periodic testing of water in Kibera to determine E. coli levels in water at the source and in homes, they’re helping with a few other very important tests.  First and foremost, they’re helping us determine the optimal level of chlorine dosing.  One of our core services is to add chlorine to the water people buy at the tap to help ensure it’s safe for drinking.  There are already household chlorine products available in Kenya that people can use to purify their water.  The instructions call for a dosage of 3 ml of chlorine per 20 liters of water.  The biggest barrier keeping these products from achieving higher consumer adoption is that they make the water taste and smell kind of like… well… chlorine.  However, testing performed by the CDC last year showed that the tap water already had some chlorine in it from when it’s treated at the initial water source before its piped into the slums.  As such, it may be possible to add a smaller dose like 1 ml per 20 liters and still obtain a meaningful reduction in E. coli levels without noticeably impacting the taste and smell.  That would be a huge breakthrough, as I’m not aware of any single product in Kenya that’s affordable to the poorest of the poor, convenient, effective, and doesn’t impact water taste.  Of course we need to wait for the test results, but I’m excited about the possibility of introducing a truly new and improved product into the market.

The CDC and KEMRI will also conduct some testing to ensure the method we’re proposing for cleaning water storage containers is effective.  The CDC also conducts detailed and ongoing disease monitoring and tracks cases of cholera, typhoid, and other waterborne disease.  While it’s impossible to isolate the impact from our organization, in theory we should hopefully see some reduction in these diseases over time in the areas where we’re operating. 

I’m very grateful to these two fantastic organizations for their help, and I look forward to working with them both.

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