Diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of mortality in the developing world, killing around 2.6 million people per year in the period 1990-2000. Children under 5 experience an average of 3.2 diarrheal episodes per year, and diarrheal diseases account for 20 percent of deaths in this age group. Despite widespread awareness of the dangers of drinking unsafe water, there is extremely low adoption of sanitation or clean water practices in rural Western Kenya. Researchers examine the impact of different interventions on take-up of chlorine dispensers including price, persuasion, promotion, and the chlorination products themselves with a two-phase study. In the first phase, households were given seven WaterGuard bottles, an individual water treatment product, each sufficient for one month’s supply of clean water. In the second phase, researchers compared six different treatments designed to increase WaterGuard adoption, including promotional messages delivered at the household and/or community level and repeated promotion of chlorination through home visits. Results show that after receiving a free 7-month supply, chlorine was detected in 58 percent of households, much more than the 2 percent starting level. However, only 10 percent of the distributed coupons were redeemed. The study also found that hiring local community members to promote chlorine use among their neighbors is highly effective at increasing use, while investments in marketing campaigns and coupon schemes proved to be ineffective. This study influenced the establishment of the Dispensers for Safe Water program, which has installed free chlorination dispensers at water sources across Kenya, Uganda and Malawi benefiting more than 4 million people.
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