For the first time in YemenNew affordable water filters for clean drinking water [Archives:2008/1168/Reportage]

June 30 2008

Hamed Thabet
The German technology development organization in Yemen (GTZ) is launching a project to provide rural areas with cheap water filters.

According to Micheal Klinger, the GTZ's Hydrogeologist Team Leader, said that the organization's Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) promotes the production and distribution of this filter to be used in rural areas where access to safe drinking water is very difficult and water networks are not available yet. The project also aims to promote the rain water harvesting concept as a possible source for drinking water.

“We strongly believe that most rural households in Yemen could be safely supplied out of an integrated rain water harvesting concept which is supported by all partners,” he added.

“If we want to implement a sustainable water management concept IWRM also has to focus on domestic water supply,” said Klinger, noting that Yemen relies largely on scarce groundwater supplies which are quickly being depleted.

Filter units are sold wholesale to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for about YR4,000 (US$20) with a basic receptacle and faucet; more expensive clay receptacles are also available. A replacement filter costs about YR 2,500. For the private sector prices may differ. The filters last for three years, said Ashraf Al-Eryani, Project Coordinator in the GTZ.

Abud Al-Karim Al-Arhabi, the Minister of Planning and Director of the Social Fund for Development, insisted on the importance of providing affordable filters in order that everyone can buy and use them. “It will be good if these filters reach poor families in rural areas, where clean drinking water is hard to get,” Al-Arhabi.

According to the World Bank, around 75 percent of Yemeni citizens live in rural areas and work in the agriculture field, earning less than two dollars a day.

In addition, Only 27 percent of rural citizens have access to safe drinking water, according to the water ministry.

Field test for filters successful

According to Ashraf Al-Eryani, GTZ project coordinator that the GTZ first tested the filters in Amran six months ago for 200 families in four villages that had a problem with clean drinking water, and about 98 percent of the people there were receptive to them. After testing the filters, research was conducted in order to ensure the filters are good.

The research concluded that among children, the percentage of diarrhea decreased from 64 percent to less than 15 percent after only three months of using the filtered water. Diarrhea among adults using the filters also decreased from 25 percent to 17 percent.

“So far, only the Red Cross bought 1,000 filters in order to give it to Sa'ada four months ago. Also, we donated about 200 filters to Mahwit, and some to Socotra Island,” Al-Eryani explained.

“We hope that the [GTZ] and the private sector will take on this responsibility, and that whoever starts selling these filters will not increase their price. They are for poor people in rural areas and the goal of these filters is to provide clean drinking water for them,” said Al-Eryani.

Yemeni kilns improved to produce new ceramic filter

Potters for Peace (PFP) in Nicaragua developed the “ready-to-use” ceramic filter, which eliminates almost 100% of all bacteria, including E. coli and Vibrio cholera, as well as giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Since then, PFP has helped establish production sites in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, El Salvador, the Darfur region of Sudan, Myanmar and recently in Yemen.

In 2007 the GTZ- IWRM improved Yemeni pottery by enabling the production of high- temperate ceramics using a gas fired kiln, Al-Eryani noted.

Building a factory, to manufacture the filters cost the GTZ US$50,000, while staff training cost a further US$25,000. Building the oven for the pottery cost 30,000$ and the test filter for the people and its research cost 15,000$, he added.

Tens of thousands of the filters have been distributed worldwide by Organizations such as International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, Plan International, Project Concern International, Oxfam and USAID. Potters for Peace has relied on partner Health Organizations to provide appropriate training and education about filter use.

The PFP filter is simple in design, easy for families to use, and performs exceptionally well in laboratory tests. Research underway at the University of North Carolina indicates that with small additions of iron oxide the filter can effectively remove viruses as well. With proper cleaning maintenance and mentoring, the filter can provide potable water for rural families that draw their water from surface-influenced contaminated sources such as springs, rivers, wells, or standing surface water.