Friday, November 27, 2009

Africa and the Water Crisis

This post simply features a Youtube video from WaterAID titled: Africa Water Week- a film about the staus of WASH in Africa.

This film played during the first day of Africa Water Week 2009. The film looks at the status of water and sanitation in Africa. I implore any readers of this to watch any films WaterAid has on YouTube. If all I can do is spur one person to take action, this post will have served a purpose. The WaterAid home site is: Please support WaterAid generously. You may think these economic times are tough, tell that to the 48 million orphans in Africa, or the approximately 5 African children that died from disease due to unsafe water while you read this blog. Watch the video, visit their site, support their (and our) cause, bring hope, save lives.

Bob Downey

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Companies devoted to African Relief

Once a month, I will highlight companies that devote profits in an effort to combat African crises or promote awareness of these issues in an effort to mobilize the public.

Tumai Water: Tumai Water first hit the shelves in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in March 2008 with two stores. Now, Tumai Water is sold in 400 locations and is working on their third well system in South Africa. It was started by the Spero Group in an alliance with, our own organization, to raise awareness for poverty related issues in Sub-Sahara and raise money for's projects. The brand has shown success in both areas wherever it has been sold but a lack of startup funding has plagued Spero Group since the inception of the brand. Bill Walters, Director of Sales and Marketing speaking from his 18 years of experience in the beverage arena stated,
"I have never seen a brand start a buzz without intense marketing like this brand has. If Spero can raise the capital, this will be a national brand, widespread knowledge of world issues will be achieved, and many lives will be saved. But more than that, a model for business involvement in non-profit issues will be proven a success and, I hope, cause a fundamental change in the way business is done."

The core of Tumai Water's founders is their passion to create sustainable development in Africa, starting in South Africa. defines sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

A good example of this I witnessed in Emthonjeni near Johannesburg, South Africa this past April. Terxia Chegwidden, who runs the Haven Care Centers, showed me a man that had no living and no prospects. We met him driving his horse and wagon as he tended his crop of corn. This man learned to farm, is feeding his family, and earning a living - sustainable development. Emthonjeni is a model for sustainability as many changes have occurred over the past couple of years that are transforming this community.

To date, Tumai Water has only raised a little over $2000 for sustainability projects in South Africa with the expectation to multiply this many times over the next year. The brand won a bronze award for Ethical Initiatives from Water Innovation at the 2008 Bottled Water Congress in Wiesbaden, Germany. Nayl DeSouza, then editor of Water Innovation stated that he and "the entire staff was tremendously excited about Tumai's win. He went on to say that the story of the brand is incredibly strong and the passion the founders have for Africa is obvious and genuine."

Tumai Water is still looking for ways to raise capital to strengthen and expand the brand. When asked about this, Mr. Walter said that 3000 locations right this minute would like to pick up the brand but without the resources to support it, it cannot be done; not yet. Still, even with the small footprint in the bottled water industry, Spero Group has made a lasting impression and accomplished a great deal for thousands of people already. Even if the brand never expands, the company and its founders will continue to strive to eliminate the issues that stem from poverty in Africa.

Although is part of the Tumai Water story, ANY company that legitimately has a passion for a cause should be commended. we hope that products that support causes will become more popular and become the model that the consumer will choose more in the future.
Anyone wishing to contact Tumai Water may do so at 304-264-1466, email at or through their website

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa is HIV Hotspot

This story is copied in part from the Children's Resiliency Project ( newletter.

CRP runs the Indawo Yethemba Children's Village near Pietermaritzburg and is a supported project of

The uNgungundlovo district has the highestprevalence (45.7%) of HIV infections among pregnant women countrywide. This means that almost every second pregnant woman in the district is HIV positive. The figures quoted by the MEC are from the 2008 national antenatal HIV prevalence survey released by national Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Finance minister Ina Cronje said KZN has consistently recorded the highest prevalence of HIV infected among 15 to 49 year old pregnant women.

The province also has the highest of 2 to 18 year olds who are orphaned. She said this is why there is a concerted drive to bring together not only the government but people from all spheres to tackle AIDS as a united front. She said the province, uNgungundlovu - where Pietermaritzburg is, has no choice as the pandemic is the reversing the progress and development made in KZN. Children are paying the price by not being able to attend school regularly or dropping out. There is no one reason for the high HIV statistics in Umgungundlovu, the KZN Health Department said. Spokesman Chris Maxon said research would need to be conducted to reveal the local factors that drive the epidemic specifically in a district. Maxon added, however, that with anti-retroviral treatment (ART) people are living longer. There are 32,048 people on ART in uMgungundlovu. He said many mothers are resuming their normal lives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

AIDS Leading Cause of Death in Women

The World Health Organization announced yesterday that AIDS has been determined to be a leading cause of death in women. This is no surprise to those of us who work to fight this horrible disease in the African sub-continent. The article states that:

"Unsafe sex is the leading risk factor in developing countries for these women of childbearing age, with others including lack of access to contraceptives and iron deficiency, the WHO said. Throughout the world, one in five deaths among women in this age group is linked to unsafe sex, according to the U.N. agency."

Full article at:

This, of course, is well understood in South Africa where Tumai Foundation ( has a presence. What the article only alludes to is that most of these women have no control of this matter. No choice is open to them. This issue will not lessen until the primary cause of this condition, and the condition of most rampant diseased areas, is corrected: poverty.

I took this picture near Port Elizabeth in 2006 - notice the graveyard above the settlement on the hill top - safe water - I think not.

The issues of poverty are easily seen throughout Africa: lack of sanitation, safe water, medical supplies, food, and education. The article also quoted WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan,
"We will not see a significant improvement in the health of women until they are no longer recognized as second-class citizens in many parts of the world".
This is one of the most important aspects of this article; that the rights of women in many African societies is a large part of this problem that needs to be addressed.

The true injustice about AIDS is the fact that of the more than 14,000 people will contract HIV/AIDS every day in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority are young women and girls. My heart cries out to the multitudes of women and children that contract HIV through rape and of the infants that receive HIV through breastfeeding. We need to take a stand, to let the world know - no longer.

More on African poverty issues soon