FEATURED: Unilever’s project supplies clean water to 10,000 residents in Nyaruguru district

Anthony Esyalai, the Head of Marketing-Homecare Division of Uniliver in East African region, Janvier Gashema the vice mayor in charge of Economic Development. / Michel Nkurunziza

Unilever, one of the world’s leading consumer goods companies, has launched a community- based social project that is supplying clean water to over 10,000 beneficiaries in Nyaruguru district, Munini sector. The launch was graced, on January 18, by Anthony Esyalai, Head of Marketing-Homecare Division, Unilever East Africa, Janvier Gashema, the vice-Mayor in charge of Economic Development, Francois Habitegeko, the Mayor, and many others.

Unilever operates in more than 190 countries and makes and sells around 400 brands that are used by 2.5 billion people daily around the world. Some of its products are available in Rwanda such as Sunlight soaps, which were freely distributed to residents during the water-supply project launching. Sunlight soap products are sold at various prices ranging from Rwf 9,000 per 5 kg bucket to Rwf 50 per 15 gramme satchet. Unilever Rwanda has two entities, Unile

ver Tea and Unilever Consumer Business, and provides social support to the community.

According to Kelvin Kuria, Country Director of Unilever Rwanda, four Sunlight water centers have been launched after being constructed at a cost of $50,000 under the project dubbed “Sunlight, Isoko y’Isuku” project, loosely translated as “Sunlight, the Source of Hygiene”. The Sunlight water centers have tap water, clean pumped water, and a retail kiosk selling household items, owned and managed by a local entrepreneur.

Residents have started to fetch water on the water points. Michel Nkurunziza

Sunlight is a global laundry detergent brand. Water and sanitation support is aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 6, to achieve universal access to clean water and sanitation. “The project shows our commitment to improve the health and well-being of society, especially women and children. We hope to keep the children in school by saving them from spending 2 hours every day fetching water as well as help their mothers to be more productive at home. We thank Nyaruguru district for allowing us to work in the local community to realize our shared vision,” Kuria said.

Globally, women and girls are responsible for 75 per cent of water collection and spend around 40 hours every month collecting water from distant water sources. On average, women and children in Nyaruguru district hike for up to two hours to reach a water source and spend hours in long queues waiting for water.

Children used to fetch water in the valley water source which tires them and cause missing class attendance. Michel Nkurunziza

Beneficiaries speak out

Desire Manzi is a 12 year-old child from Ngeli cell, Munini sector, who shared her testimony on how walking a long distance to fetch water has affected her class attendance. “We used to spend one hour going to and from the water source in the valley. Sometimes we would wait for water in long queues and arrive late at school or miss the whole day. We walked the shortest distance since other villages spent about two hours. When it is a day for washing clothes at home I fetch water five times. We are happy to have clean water close to us. I will no longer delay to reach school and my hygiene will improve at home,” she said.

The launch was graced  on Friday by Anthony Esyalai, the Head of Marketing-Homecare Division of Unilever in East African region, Janvier Gashema the vice mayor in charge of Economic Development. Michel Nkurunziza

Unilever staff posing for photo at the launched water center. / Michel Nkurunziza

Beatha Mutezinka, a woman in the area, said “we would go to the valley and would even come back at mid-day without water due to long queues and children would miss lunch. As women and children, we will no longer suffer from fatigue due to fetching water from so far away. Children will be able to easily attend their classes and mothers will spend more time on other activities. Our hygiene will improve and reduce diseases related to poor hygiene.” The residents of Munini sector have committed themselves to maintain the water points to avoid water shortage.

Nyaruguru district officials laud the support

Francois Habitegeko, the Mayor of Nyaruguru district, said that Unilever support is a timely intervention in implementing Rwanda’s vision and the district’s goal to increase water access. Nyaruguru district is composed of 14 sectors, 72 cells and 332 villages with 320,000 people. “Thirty per cent of our population has no access to clean water. We seek to ensure residents’ well-being. Unilever’s social support is an addition to the projects we have to ensure all people have close access to water. By working with the private sector, such as Unilever, the district will connect all people to clean water by 2021 before the set target of 2024 under the Seven Year Programme,” he said.

The water center Kiosk launched by Unilever in Nyaruguru district. / Michel Nkurunziza

More than 43 per cent of the residents of Nyaruguru district travel more than 500 meters to fetch water and only 0.85 per cent access water in their homes, yet standards require a travel of below 500 meters to reach clean piped water. So far 547 water points are operational in the district but it still needs another 157 water projects to ensure close access by everyone to water. Over 55 per cent of households in rural areas take 30 minutes or longer to obtain drinking water. The most affected area is Eastern Province followed by Southern Province where Unilever Tea is currently investing in the tea sector and helping the community to access clean water. Rwanda envisions reaching 100 per cent water accessibility by 2024.