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P&G, Human Needs Project Open Self-Sustaining Community Facility in Africa’s Largest Slum

Procter & Gamble and the Human Needs Project (HNP), an NGO dedicated to providing basic and empowerment services to meet everyday human needs, are today launching a sustainable community center in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa and one of the largest in the world.

Powered by solar energy and supplying clean water sourced from a 1,000-ft borehole, the Kibera Town Centre is a pilot aimed at helping HNP and its partners find long-term, scalable solutions to improve health and well-being for communities such as Kibera that are in need of clean water. With 25 showers and 15 toilets, 5 hand-washing sinks, 2 washing machines and 2 tumble dryers, the Centre aims to provide enormous benefits for the community of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.

Clean water from the borehole will be pumped by solar pumps into the Centre for sale, and for use in sanitation facilities, the Ariel Laundry Room and Connie’s Coffee Parlour (named for actress Connie Nielsen, HNP’s co-founder). The water will be heated by solar panels lacing the Town Centre’s roof and stored in insulated tanks to minimize heat loss. Solar energy will also light the Centre and support the running of its facilities. Wastewater will be treated through a unique wastewater management system that uses recycled plastic, gravel and sand filters, and is entirely self-contained within the building. The recycled water will then be virtually pathogen-free and available to use within the community. HNP says this process can be replicated in any part of the world.

Virginie Helias, Global Director of Sustainability at P&G, said: “When it comes to sustainability, Procter & Gamble believes actions speak louder than words, so we are doing just that in Kibera. Our global resources give us the unique ability to provide meaningful guidance and education to the community. We are incredibly proud to work in partnership with HNP in the Kibera Town Centre project to implement real solutions to key local issues, utilizing Procter & Gamble’s expertise in the Fabric Care sector. We look forward to learning more about what such a project can do in the Kibera community and how it might be scaled up.”

HNP says Kibera’s limited access to clean water, combined with a strenuous laundry process, has had serious health implications for local women, who often injure their backs carrying water for long distances and bending over to wash laundry for an average of three hours a day, three times a week. P&G’s Ariel Laundry Room will provide a hygienic washing space, while the station design and the availability of scrubbing boards and washing machines will dramatically reduce physical strain and wash time.

Additionally, the Centre aims to act as a source of economic empowerment in the community, owned and operated by a co-operative of community members, and offering facilities such as microcredit, adult education and skills training, a cyber café, a marketplace and a health and information kiosk. P&G says it will work with the managers of the Town Centre and the people of Kibera to try out new methods and technologies, enabling the Centre to serve the community with the products and practices that better address their laundry issues while also teaching residents valuable skills. While this partnership is a first for the consumer goods giant, the goal is to scale up the number of self-sustaining centers worldwide, once the Kimera pilot has proven successful.

HNP says the centre employed 300 local people in the build and an additional 45 local jobs will be created for its operation. To date, more than two dozen local managers have been trained in the areas including leadership, economics, health and safety, communications and programming, alongside practical skills such as plumbing and building. The centre will also promote a living wage for employees.

P&G isn’t the only brand working to provide access to clean water to communities in need in Africa and around the world:

  • In February, H&M and WaterAid launched a new global partnership aimed at improving the health, education and future prospects of students by delivering safe water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in schools throughout the developing world. The H&M Conscious Foundation, which will donate $9.3 million, said the initiative will not only deliver immediate and long-term improvements to health and education, but also influence national and international policies around the right to safe water and sanitation.
  • In March, TOMS announced the opening of its new Roasting Company, making coffee its third “one for one” product — already making impacts with its shoes and eyewear, sales of TOMS Coffee will help improve access to clean water in Rwanda, Malawi, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, from which the company sources its beans: Every cup purchased will provide a day’s worth of clean water; for every bag, a week’s worth.
  • In April, the Acqua for Life campaign — a partnership between Giorgio Armani and Green Cross International (GCI) that has been rolling out sustainable drinking water systems in water-scarce communities in West Africa (Ghana) and Latin America (Bolivia and Mexico) since its launch in 2011 — announced it will extend its work to Sri Lanka, Ivory Coast and Senegal this year.
  • And in May, the Coca-Cola Company and WaterHealth International (WHI) announced a plan to bring safe drinking water to one million school children in 2,000 schools in developing countries by the end of 2015. The Child with Water program aims to deliver 500 million liters of safe drinking water a year to school children through water-purification systems installed, operated and maintained by WHI.
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