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Biosand water filters for families in Haiti

Requested by

Clean Water for Haiti

Who are you trying to help? What issue are you trying to address?

According to the World Health Organization, Haiti is the most water impoverished nation in the world. It is also one of the world’s poorest nations in real terms. Water related illness is the the most prevalent type of illness in Haiti and predominantly affects Haiti’s children who have not yet had a chance to build up resistance to water borne pathogens. More than 90% of children are infected with intestinal parasites to one degree or another and typhoid runs rampant along with a host of other water borne diseases. Most notable, however, is the cholera epidemic which started in 2010 and to date has killed over 7000 people.

We make water Biosand filters in Haiti and know that using these filters helps to prevent waterborne diseases. We are frequently told something along the lines of “These filters are great! We should have had these here before the cholera outbreak started!” In actuality, however, we installed many thousands of filters in the Artibonite valley before the cholera outbreak happened. If those filters had not been there, there would have been many more deaths than there were. In the future, we would like to see the entire Artibonite valley saturated with filters in order to prevent future outbreaks of disease.

We are helping the part of the Haitian population who would like to be able to treat their drinking water at home with a household water filter.

What is your project and how will it help?

Our project is a subsidized Biosand water filter distribution project. We build these filters at our site in Haiti and distribute them according to demand with the assistance of community leaders.

Because of our local production, the cost per filter is very low: $55 per filter is the total cost, including manufacture, delivery, installation, user education and follow up. We sell the filters for the equivalent of $5 USD rather than giving them away to ensure that the recipients genuinely have a need for household water treatment and want to improve their health.

Our motto is “Empowering, Improving, Sustaining” and on these principles we have managed to build a very effective program since our founding in 2001. One important point we remain continuously aware of is that an unused filter is just the same as the family having no filter at all. To combat the frequent cases of filter abandonment we have encountered in the past, we have established a rigorous follow up programme. Each family receives user education on installation day, but in addition they receive a visit three times after installation – 1 month, 3 months and 12 months later. Our follow up visits have allowed us to gather data on filter usage and we have found that as of now, over 95% of Biosand filters are still being used a year after being installed.

One thing we love about this project is that we can honestly say that donor money gets used twice, because we build the filters in-country we are able to provide employment in addition to providing access to potable water!

How can other people partner with you on your project?

The greatest need we have is sponsorship of filters. Our overhead is very low, and as of January 2013 we have no need for large capital items. After receiving the $5 co-pay from filter recipients, our total cost per filter is about $50 USD. Our total capacity is roughly 230 filters per month, but as of now we are only able to run at half capacity due to lack of financial resources. We hope to find partners to sponsor filters as part of our subsidized programme.

We have identified certain goals that we would like to meet in order to help the Haitian population most effectively. First of these goals is that we increase our filter production to full capacity and continue to run steadily at full capacity. Haiti in general tends to receive large amounts of aid money immediately following a disaster, and then several years of low investment until the next disaster comes along so it is difficult to keep the Biosand filter project running steadily. Biosand filters have the potential to last decades; installing Biosand filters is a true development project as opposed to a relief project.

Please detail the resources that you need.

For us to meet our goal, we need to increase our filter production by some 115 filters per month. Each filter requires $50 in donor money, so we are struggling to overcome a shortfall of $5,750 per month as of this writing January 2013. Sponsorship of 1, or 10, or 100 filters helps, but even better would be a commitment to sponsor a certain number of filters per month, every month. Perhaps you or your company/organization would be willing to partner with us so we can achieve our goal and yours.

Regarding in-kind donations, we have almost no need for in-kind donations. We produce all our Biosand filters right here in Haiti with local materials so there is very little we need from abroad. However, we do import 1/4" ID polyethylene tubing from abroad and it would be useful to have this material donated. We typically purchase 5,000-10,000 feet at a time and have it shipped into Haiti via a shipping company based in Hollywood, Florida. Please contact us if your company would consider donating this material.

Further information

Contact details

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Partnership types

Project funding

Regions / countries / territories

Americas: Haiti

Global issues

Education and training; Water and related ecosystems


Haiti: Earthquakes - Jan 2010; Haiti: Cholera Outbreak - Oct 2010


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