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Saving Water by Increasing Access!

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Egypt
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UNICEF
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3,000 families gained access to drinkable water at their homes thanks to UNICEF's revolving fund idea

Orany is a father of 7 children in a small village in Minya. Like many of his neighbors he is working in the fields surrounding the village as a farmer, earning less than a couple of dollars per day. A very low and irregular income, on which all the family relies.

Not so long ago, Orany’s household didn’t have direct access to water. “I needed to go to my privileged neighbors and ask for water. Sometimes, they were refusing as they were claiming water prices were too high.” says Orany.

Living with little or no ­water in the midst of a scorching hot summer can be a torture. Many poor families – at least 10% in these villages – are connecting illegally to the water network. This very often leads to water leaks and waste as well as it puts pressure on the infrastructure.

Three years ago, Orany applied for a revolving fund loan supported by UNICEF to get access to treated tap water in his household. This allowed Orany’s family to have direct access to clean water, despite the connection costs.

In Egypt, the water company is in charge of the infrastructure bringing water in the streets. However, the water pies bringing water to the houses should be paid by the families, who often cannot afford it. It is to cover these costs that UNICEF, in partnership with the Minya Water and Wastewater Company, set up a first-of-a-kind interest-free loan system in Egypt called "the revolving fund" to cover the 2000 Egyptian pounds (almost $130) to connect their houses to the infrastructure.

"The idea is simple" says Remone Shokry, WASH consultant at UNICEF Egypt, "the water company sets up household water connections at the villagers' houses. They pay for it on equal installments of less than $2 a month for 24 months. Once the water company collects the installments, the money is 'recycled' as a loan to another family. This system is called the 'revolving' fund'."

UNICEF initially funded the Minya water company with 1.5 million Egyptian pounds (equivalent to almost 95,000 dollars) to start the loans. Thanks to this innovative idea that started in 2016, 3000 families were able to have drinkable water at their households.

Not far from Orany’s house, children are pumping water directly from the ground, with this homemade well. The untreated water represents a substantial health risk for the two children and their parents. They, like many others, are still waiting for their turns in the revolving fund.

In cooperation with the national initiative "Hayah Karima" (Dignified life), UNICEF plans to implement the revolving fund concept in the 192 targeted villages in Minya.

More funds are needed to accelerate the access of almost 45,000 families to household drinkable water and 225,000 sewage connections in these villages.