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Emergency Coronavirus Water Fund Extended Through Dec 31st

Back in July, we announced the Emergency Coronavirus Water Fund, extending the government of Ghana’s free water initiative to all Saha communities.  At the end of September, the Ghanaian government announced that they are extending their free water initiative through the end of the year. With that extension comes the expectation that all Community Service Organizations, including Safe Water Enterprises like Saha Global, provide free water as well. While there was no official indication at the time that this extension was going to be announced, Saha was prepared for this possibility which is why our Board of Directors had voted to extend the EWF through Dec. 31st back in July. It felt good to be prepared when the official announcement was made!

We are extremely proud of how the Emergency Water Fund has included our community partners in this important, life-saving initiative during a pandemic. Saha is dedicated to working in the hardest to reach places, and leaving no one behind.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen great enthusiasm from our women entrepreneurs and community partners.  We’re seeing more clean water than every before being consumed in our communities.  Our team has risen to this new challenge, delivering supplies and customer service throughout a difficult rainy season.  We’re grateful to our funding partners, who understand that this year is different than any other for Saha, and for the world.

 

 

Staying Safe from Coronavirus While Delivering Clean Water

When COVID-19 was first confirmed in Ghana this March, we knew we needed a good plan to change our operations, keep the team safe, and fulfill our mission.  During those first few weeks, we developed our remote customer calling and other remote work structures.  We’ve since developed safety protocols such that we feel confident to have our team in the field, doing what we do best – getting clean water to people who need it!

COVID-19 safety measures changed several things: day-to-day operations for our Saha teammates, things we ask of our entrepreneurs and businesses, and changes to how we operate in the communities.  Managers and other office-based staff who can work from home are encouraged to as much as possible, and have extra data packages so they can get their work done without the office internet. In the office, you wash your hands outside before entering, and must wear a face mask at all times.  We miss all the handshakes, hugs, and high-fives, but we know if we stay safe, we’ll be able to enjoy those expressions of friendship and camaraderie again!

In the field, front-line teammates wear masks and gloves, and carry hand sanitizer with them.  Each teammate has either several cloth, washable masks, or is supplied with disposable ones depending upon their preference.  After all, the best mask is the one you wear!

When we are in the field, we’ve changed how we communicate to stay outdoors and avoid entering the interior of any structure.  If we need to do a small group meeting, like with some village VIPs and the entrepreneurs, we do them outside, safely distanced, under a tree.  Community meetings and household visits, always a great way to spread information, are also on hold for now as we avoid large gatherings or going door to door and being in contact with lots of people.  The great thing is that because everyone knows about COVID-19, it’s easy to explain why we’ve changed our procedures.  It’s gratifying to know that the people in the villages understand we are doing these things in order to keep them safe!  At first, it was awkward to not shake hands and wear masks while talking, or to ask to meet the elders outside rather than in the chief palace.  But as the pandemic continues, more and more we hear from our partners that they are happy we are trying our best to protect their health.

Our entrepreneurs have also changed the way they run their business, beyond the free water.  They all wear face masks while selling water – in fact, our front-line team reports that when they show up in a community and sales are happening, 100% of the time, the entrepreneurs have their masks!  To date, we’ve distributed over 600 masks – 1 for each entrepreneur, and starting this month we will be distributing enough so that each entrepreneur has 5 so she can wash them between uses.  They are also enforcing social distancing at their businesses during sales.  It’s so hard to remember to do, so we are really proud that 96% of the time, we can observe social distancing during sales!  For those familiar with our usual opening day photos with plenty of crowded people and buckets, this is a huge change.

With safety as the first priority, we adapt to each new piece of information as the world learns more about COVID.  The protocols we have make us feel confident that we are protecting our team and our partners.

Announcing: The Emergency Coronavirus Fund

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to affect everyone’s life all across the globe.  Here at Saha, we are pleased to announce a new effort to help promote hygiene and clean water consumption in the fight against this virus.

Saha’s Board of Directors approved an exciting new initiative in our COVID-19 response.  In alignment with the Ghanaian government’s efforts to provide free water access for as many Ghanaians as possible for 3 months, Saha created Coronavirus Emergency Water Funds for each of our partner communities. These funds will allow all people living in Saha partner communities to access free water from their Saha business for the months of June, July and August. While this is different than our typical social enterprise model, this emergency effort strongly aligns with our organization’s mission as well as the overall goals of our COVID-19 response. Our leadership team has done extensive risk analysis and mitigation planning and we feel confident that this short term, emergency relief effort, will not have a negative impact on our entrepreneurs’ ability to charge for water in the long-run. Instead, we believe this initiative will contribute to a positive relationship with both the government and our community partners while also providing Saha with a lot of opportunities to learn about demand, price and business logistics. 

We are dedicated to our mission – getting the cleanest water to the people who need it most, now more than ever.  We’re grateful to have this story covered by several Ghanaian news sources, including Citi Newsroom, story linked here.

The response from our partner communities has been overwhelmingly positive.  We are so proud at Saha that we keep showing up, month after month, year after year, even during a crisis, for nearly 100,000 people.  Stories from the field to come over the next days and weeks.

Baramini in Gidanturu – a Saha entrepreneur for 10 years, proudly serving free clean water for her community.

Saha Global’s Response to COVID-19

We wanted to take a moment to update our supporters on how Saha is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ghana announced the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in country on March 12th. Like everywhere, the situation is changing daily as the case number grows.

The goals of Saha’s COVID-19 response are the health of our staff and partner communities, communicating accurate information, and following the instructions of public health officials. With those three goals in mind, we have decided to pause any new water business implementations while we wait to see how the situation in Ghana progresses. Instead, we are going to focus our efforts on making sure that our 247 current partner communities have the water treatment supplies that they need to keep their water businesses running smoothly.  We are also reaching out to our government partners to see if and how Saha can help spread accurate information about COVID-19, hand washing and/or other important messages since we have such strong relationships with so many remote, rural villages and the staff/transport required to reach those communities quickly.

Saha’s office hand-washing station, with instructions on our demonstration water treatment center.

As soon as the first cases were announced in Ghana, our entire staff, in small groups, went through training on COVID-19 and how to protect yourselves via frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and staying home when sick.  We set up a hand-washing station at the office and mandated anyone who entered the compound had to wash their hands.  Despite the reduction in field work, we are committed to continuing to pay our staff through the duration of their contracts, and have been using this time to develop and test new ways for our team members to support our entrepreneurs remotely. We are also continuing to provide health insurance benefits as well as a new unlimited sick-leave policy.  We also gave one safe storage container to each team member so they can set up their own hand-washing station at home to keep their families safe.

Hand-washing at home, thanks to a Saha safe storage container

In the last two weeks, we have transitioned to work-from-home for our whole team.  Our field team has been working hard together on establishing phone contacts for all 247 villages. This sounds simpler than it is!  We work in the most remote, rural places in northern Ghana, where few people have cells phones, there is no electricity to charge that phone, and network connections are poor. Our team has gotten creative – using the numbers of motoking and market truck drivers, or contacts from nearby villages to reach our entrepreneurs. To date we have successfully been able to contact 80% of our villages through these methods. This work is ongoing but we are confident that our innovative, hardworking team will find a way to remotely reach all of our village partners. We are also developing new protocols that minimize contact and support proper social distancing recommendations for when our entrepreneurs need our support in securing more water treatment supplies or fixing a technical problem.

Team meetings look a little different than they used to! Now the whole team is working from home.

So much is different for Saha (and all of us) compared to just a few weeks ago. One thing that hasn’t changed is that clean water is essential for health. In our 247 partner communities, the Saha water business is the only source of clean water for the residents there. These businesses are currently serving a total of 110,000 people.  Saha is in it for the long haul with our partner communities, and we will continue to support them in delivering clean water no matter the circumstances.  We thank you for your continuing support as we fulfill our mission to bring the cleanest water to the people who need it most.