I’ve been supporting three of Kiva’s field partners simultaneously here in Vietnam for the past four months. As you may know, Kiva works with local field partners around the world to best reach borrowers in need. One of the field partners I was assigned to support is Thrive Networks (“Thrive”), which is based in Oakland, California, and has an office in Hanoi, where I’m currently living and working. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to visit Kiva borrowers in five different provinces in Vietnam via planes, trains and automobiles. Many of Thrive’s borrowers are located three hours outside of Hanoi in the pristine Ninh Binh province, which is known for it’s gorgeous mountains and waterways. The borrowers, Thrive, Kiva and I are profoundly thankful for the support from lenders, as I'd like to share some information about Thrive’s impact on various levels: social, health, environmental and economic.
Why Proper Water & Sanitation Facilities Are Necessary
I had no idea how important water and sanitation loan products were until I began working with Thrive. These loan products prevent infections, disease, and death. They also reduce incidents of sexual harassment, and help borrowers maintain their dignity. Lastly, they allow children to spend more time in school, and adults to spend more time at work, rather than time sick at home, thereby contributing to the local economy. I therefore quickly learned why water and sanitation loan products fund equally as fast as exciting clean energy loan products on Kiva. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention ("CDC") reports that 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source and that an estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. Further, unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases. (CDC). As if this wasn’t reason enough, I learned from speaking to Thrive’s borrowers and Thrive’s sub-partner, the Vietnam Women’s Union, that some borrowers forced themselves to hold their bladder for several days at a time before they could use their friend’s toilet a mile away. One borrower was forced to use her male neighbor’s toilet until he eventually sexually assaulted her. I talked to many borrowers who told me they relieved themselves outdoors before they received their Kiva loan for a toilet. They always laughed out of embarrassment when they told me this, but luckily, they no longer have to deal with this level of shame. Significantly, studies also show that children miss less days of school and adults can work more hours when they have regular and safe access to a toilet and sink of their own, as these help prevent the spread of infections and diseases. Therefore, Kiva loans for a toilet and sink via Thrive have had multiple positive effects that borrowers in Vietnam are forever thankful for!
Thrive’s Water & Sanitation Program
Given the magnitude of these problems, it's therefore understandable that international NGOs have formed exclusively to combat lack of access to proper water and sanitation facilities. Kiva's field partner of over three years, Thrive, is one such NGO. Thrive's incentive-based program targets the poorest 40% in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with the goal of improving community health via increasing access to clean water and promoting sanitation adoption. Thrive's water and sanitation program in Southeast Asia is called Community Hygiene Output-Based Aid ("CHOBA"). CHOBA takes an innovative approach in that it couples marketing to and educating the poor about the health benefits of having proper water and sanitation facilities along with small cash incentives to efficiently encourage behavior change. Thrive also partners with the provincial level of the Vietnam Women's Union in order to reach those in need of improved water and sanitation, as the majority of the CHOBA beneficiaries are also members of the Vietnam Women's Union.
As a result of Thrive's work:
161,000 household latrines have been built.
800,000 people have access to improved sanitation.
251 clean water systems have been built.
Ha, pictured above, has three children - two girls and one boy, and has been a rice farmer her whole life. Ha's husband is also a rice farmer. Like most Kiva borrowers I met in Vietnam, Ha has taken on other jobs in addition to her job as a rice farmer; She currently also makes furniture for a living.
Before her Kiva loan for a toilet and a sink, Ha had no choice but to relieve herself outdoors. She laughed out of embarrassment when she told me this when we discussed her loan over tea. Ha is very thankful that Kiva lenders understood the need for her and her family to have access to proper water and sanitation facilities.
In addition to her loan for a sanitary latrine and a sink, Ha has also taken out loans for her daughters to go to school, as she hopes that her daughters will get sick less often as a result of the new toilet and sink, thus enabling them to attend school more regularly. She ultimately hopes that her children will be able to find reliable jobs after graduating to make a better life for themselves.
Loan (pronounced "Lou-an"), pictured in the photos above, has nine children - three boys and six girls - and has been a rice farmer for 18 years. She is drying rice in the photo above. Prior to farming rice, she was a kindergarten teacher until the age of 20. She switched careers and became a rice farmer in order to be physically closer to her young children. In addition to farming rice, Loan raises animals such as fish, chicken and duck to later sell. She used to also raise buffalo, but had to sell her last buffalo at a loss when her husband became ill and she needed to be able to pay for his hospital bills.
Prior to her Kiva loan, Loan had a broken, unhygienic toilet and did not have a sink. Loan told me her family is now happy and healthy. She is very grateful for her new toilet and sink, which she shares with her husband and her two grandchildren, who she lives with.