150,000 Children Die Every Year in Pakistan from Drinking Dirty Water

The solution is simple: provide clean drinking water.

“It was a dream come true to help people by providing something they needed every day.”

— Franklin Woodland

In Pakistan, one child dies from contaminated water every four minutes…. but that doesn’t have to be the case. 

They don’t need new drugs. They don’t need more research. They don’t need new technology. All they need is clean water.

Problem is, clean water is inaccessible for many people in Pakistan. Tap water isn’t safe to drink, forcing people to rely on bottled or filtered water. Even if people can afford to buy water, most of the time, the water they purchase is still contaminated.

Franklin Wright, founder of Pristine Water, is trying to change that.

The origins of Pristine Water

After 20 years of software engineering consulting for fortune 500 companies, Franklin wanted to do something different. When the financial crisis hit, one of his companies went bankrupt and his whole business tanked. Rather than focus on the loss, Franklin used it as a window of opportunity to start again from scratch.

He began traveling the world in search of business opportunities. Although he wasn’t well-versed in the development world, he had a clear goal: help people find jobs.

He eventually met a couple in Pakistan running a company that loaned money to women, teaching them how to invest and save. Bonding over business fluency, the couple invited Franklin to stay at their home, introducing him to people all across Karachi.

Their generosity literally and figuratively opened doors: Franklin began investigating possible business ventures to tackle some of Pakistan’s many systemic issues. After exploring different businesses and consulting with local professionals, it became clear that clean water was the biggest need.

The challenges of providing clean drinking water for Pakistan

Through his research, Franklin learned how many people in Pakistan do buy “clean” water in reusable containers, but they’re not quite getting what they pay for. “They are buying contaminated water,” Franklin explained, “It is really sad.”

Franklin went on to share how many of the existing initiatives aiming to get clean water to more Pakistanis were not effective, complicated to use, and prohibitively expensive. Some even involved back washing. The average household in Pakistan earns less than $300 per month; they can’t afford to spend $12 dollars on a water bottle with a filter straw.“I thought if I could manufacture safe drinking water and sell it at the same price that they’re buying contaminated water for, that it would be a slam dunk.”

Franklin imported a reverse osmosis manufacturing machine and built a small facility to purify water in Karachi. He then hired 15 people to deliver water to shopkeepers throughout Karachi. The operation was providing clean water to about 20,000 people per day. 

Franklin felt like it was a dream come true to help people by providing something they needed every day, but he didn’t stop there. His goal was to have 30,000 people drinking his water every day, so Franklin began looking for investments. People laughed at him. “You’re going to sell water for a penny per liter to poor people and that is going to make money?”

People deemed it as a bad business idea, yet they loved the mission and wanted to help. Instead of securing investments, Franklin began receiving donations. Eventually, he formed a charity called the Global Impact Fund, and recently used the donations to build a new well at their water manufacturing facility in Karachi.

Ensuring all is well with well water

Many people assume if you dig a well deep enough, you’ll get pure water. Not quite: wells are easily contaminated with surface water if not constructed properly.

To ensure the water is as clean as claimed, a scientist at Dow Chemical Company with a Ph.D. in water engineering helped Franklin assess the process, materials, and machines. Together, they designed a well to keep contaminants out.

Once their water is extracted, it’s processed using reverse osmosis: a process where water is pushed through microscopic holes in a filter to remove contaminants like arsenic, lead, jet fuel, pesticides, and radiation. There is no human intervention in the process — a machine does it all. 

“Reverse osmosis is more expensive, but I wanted to make sure what I was giving people was safe,” Franklin explained, “There are a lot of other, cheaper, not as effective solutions and I didn’t want to use any of those. I wanted to make sure I could wake up every day and feel confident that people were getting the right water.”

After water is processed, all that remains are hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Since sodium, magnesium, and calcium naturally occur in water, those minerals must be reintroduced for water to taste right. Pristine Water purchases imported minerals from a large pharmaceutical company to guarantee food-grade quality, and the quality checks don’t stop there.

Pristine Water tests their water regularly at an outside lab, and a microbiologist ensures employees maintain a hygienic work environment. 

Franklin is confident that after six years in the business, people respect the brand and the company, “They trust it. They know we care about them and care about what we are manufacturing.”

The company’s attention to detail recently caught the eye of several corporations. One of their clients is Tecno, a glass manufacturing company producing windshields for Suzuki. Tecno asked Pristine Water to provide water with a different chemical composition for Tecno’s industrial application — a testament to Pristine Water’s astute manufacturing ability. “They had 8 or 10 vendors and not one of them had the right thing,” Franklin recalled, “We were the only ones who had the right chemical composition — even though they had specified it.”

The role of Pakistani women

Corporate clients are beneficial, but to create lasting impact for the masses, Pristine Water turned to women.

Women in Pakistan rule the home—most are responsible for taking care of children and preparing food. They know what’s best for their family, so if they tell their husbands to switch to cleaner water, they just might do it.

Pristine Water employs women to go door-to-door in the slums and talk to young mothers about the importance of clean water. “Our water costs one or two pennies more, but it’s safe. It’s not going to kill your kids or your husband,” Franklin explains. Many of the women working for Pristine Water would otherwise struggle to sustain themselves due to being divorced, mental health issues, or familial challenges.

Clean water has financial benefits for women, too. “If their husbands get sick, that means they will be out of work and cannot make money for the family. That is going to seriously impact the family because he doesn’t receive sick time at work, they don’t have any margin, any savings. If he’s sick, they aren’t earning money. So we lead with that :  the financial benefit of drinking our water. We show them how it’s actually better for them to pay for clean water for their husband for a year than for him to get sick for three days.”

The smallest children get the biggest benefits

The people who benefit the most from Pristine Water’s work are also the smallest.

Children are the most vulnerable to contaminated water, especially in their first year. 300,000 children die every year in Pakistan, and half of those deaths are due to drinking dirty water. And death is but one side effect.

Contaminated water often contains nitrates from the agricultural runoff that heavy rains bring. If that water is boiled, those nitrates become dangerously concentrated. Nitrates can cause permanent mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Children have a 45% higher absorption rate than adults do; a small amount of dirty water can rapidly contaminate their blood.

Waterborne diseases like typhoid, dysentery, and cholera cause severe diarrhea. Due to their small size and low weight, infected infants start losing fluid at a dangerously rapid pace. Parents have about two hours to take action, but many wait too long before seeking medical help for a variety of reasons, including lack of means and social stigma.

Beyond offering affordable clean, filtered water, Pristine Water takes a proactive approach to this issue by educating mothers about the benefits of electrolyte mixtures and urging them to have these prepared to give to their sick children. They also provide free drinking water to the families of all their employees.

“We have had families tell us that we changed their whole life by giving them free drinking water that is clean,” Franklin said, “They didn’t realize how sick they previously were.”

How can we help provide clean water for Pakistan?

$7 can provide a month of clean drinking water to a family of 6 in Pakistan. You can visit the Global Impact Fund’s website to make a tax-deductible donation. Donations to the Global Impact Fund are directly invested in the water company in Pakistan, Pristine Water. Every donation matters.

More about Pristine Water and the Global Impact Fund

Pristine Water is a for-profit business in Pakistan owned by Franklin’s investment company, International Water Technologies Corporation. The Global Impact Fund (GIF) is a 501(c)3 charity in the United States which acts as an investor in the International Water Technologies Corporation. Donations made to the Global Impact Fund are directly invested into Pristine Water, helping to expand operations and provide water for thousands more in Pakistan. All gifts are tax-deductible.

Pristine Water’s current objectives

Pristine water would like to use staffing augmentation or recruiters to help find more qualified people to run the Pristine Water business in Pakistan.

  1. Upgrading machines, tanks, and building new labs. New machines can wash, fill, and cap bottles without any human intervention. Automation helps improve hygienic standards. Automation will not lessen the need for labor—Pristine Water will train their workers on maintaining the machines.
  2. Acquiring more vehicles for delivery. Trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and rickshaws can be used for water delivery. Motorcycle rickshaws in particular are very fuel efficient and make it easy to maneuver busy city streets. Franklin hopes to encourage delivery entrepreneurship by funding motorcycle rickshaws for people through Pristine Water, who can pay back the loan by delivering water. This would allow them to keep the motorcycle rickshaw and start their own business.
  3. Expanding to other cities in Pakistan. Pristine Water currently provides drinking water to employees and patients at Community Health Services (CHS), an organization in Pakistan offering free healthcare to slum residents. Pristine Water currently provides water to 9 of Community Health Services’ 30 locations, and CHS requested that Pristine Water provide water to the other 21 locations throughout Pakistan. 
  4. Expand capacity. Karachi has a population of about 21 million people and Pristine Water needs money to grow their business :  opening new warehouses, building new manufacturing plants, expanding transportation operations, and hiring more staff, including more women to go door to door educating mothers about the health and financial benefits of clean water.
  5. Launch a technology education program. In addition to helping women, they would like to provide locally-run educational services for children and fathers. Kids will learn computer skills at an after school program, while teenagers will be taught to code with the hopes of meeting the demand for engineers in Pakistan’s manufacturing industry. Uneducated adults can participate in a literacy program to learn how to read and write.
  6. Find business professionals who want to contribute to their initiatives. Previous supporters helped with marketing, sales, and logistics. Some traveled to Pakistan to do so, others worked remotely.

If you’re interested in helping, $7 a month can change the life of a Pakistani family. Please visit gifinternational.org to make a donation and help ensure every Pakistani has access to clean water.

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