Campaign: Global Citizen News

This Women-Led Initiative Helps Fund Water-Related Solutions in Africa


Image Credit - Soapply

Recent research has shown that washing hands with soap can save millions of lives.

And yet it remains one of the most neglected habits across the region.

With more than 3.5 million children under the age of five dying from diarrhea and acute lower respiratory tract infections every year, at least three-quarters belong to sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Through clean habits, 75% of such diseases can actually be prevented. Under such alarming circumstances, startups are coming forward to fund projects that provide solutions to water and sanitation problems in Africa.

Mera McGrew’s Soapply is a female- led team that addresses the issue of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. According to Soapply, washing hands with soap and water could significantly halve the diarrheal-associated deaths and decrease the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.

Crafted in Vermont using a 300-year-old method and updated to incorporate food-grade organic oils, the firm focuses on safe and natural soap. Soapply helps buyers and sellers in creating a community that encourages awareness. With no parabens, no sulfates, no artificial colorants, and no synthetic fragrances, it can be used by chemo patients and individuals that suffer from eczema.

Through sale of unscented pure liquid soap, Soapply supports global efforts to improve access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Portion of the sale proceeds are sent to initiatives across northern Ethiopia that help facilitate lasting health, education, and equity in a cost-effective way.

Mera McGrew points out that the idea for Soapply first originated from her stay in Africa where she realized that growing child mortality in the region can be prevented through sustainable investments in hand washing.

Through an integrated approach, Soapply plans to actively engage communities, identify voids and tackle challenges. Soapply initial focus is northern most part of Ethiopia and it aims to have a positive impact.

Recently, Ethiopia halved the number of the people that had no access to safe water and achieved it Millennium Development Goal target of 57 percent. Yet the improved sanitation rose by only three percent since 1990 to only 28% nationwide in 2016.

In Ethiopia, diarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of under-five mortality. Soapply’s focus on Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia could prove to be both significant and crucial to the region.

According to UNICEF, 5% of households in Adishihu (Tigray region) and 2% of households in the rural areas indicate that at least one household member suffered from diarrheal disease over the last two weeks.

As many as 61 million of the total population of 99 million people in Ethiopia have no access to clean water. Lack of access to improved sanitation has 65 million people to live with poor sanitation. Amref Health Africa notes that despite people washing their hands with water, the usage of soap is done rarely during ‘critical moments’. Washing hands with water alone is not enough to get rid of germs and hence programs like Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and initiatives like Soapply ensures that people understand the importance of using soap.

In five years, Mera hopes to “deliver better soap (better for you and the environment) that makes improving and saving lives as simple as washing your hands”. Simple initiatives like that of Soapply can improve, evolve and build amazing ‘communities of conscious consumers’.

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