July 24 2012

Where comfort is clean water

24/07/2012 – When a group of Swedish plumbers helped provide clean drinking water via SOS Children’s Villages to a community in Benin, not only did they improve the health of thousands, they gained from a partnership that delivers a fundamental right.

Typhoid fever and stomach pain caused by bacterial infection generally requires a visit to a doctor. In West African countries like Benin, receiving the required medication in a timely manner is a luxury not available to many. In a country where the needs of 10,000 people are often served by one medical doctor; pain can linger. Drinking water, contaminated with harmful bacteria is a major contributor to such infections among young children, infections that can become life threatening if left untreated. 

Every child has the right to clearn water
Every child has the right to clean healthy water. Without this right 4,000 children globally will continue to die every day  © Comfort

The result was clear

In developed countries it is taken for granted that plumbers link houses with potable water. This is in contrast with central Benin, where clean healthy water was – until recently – a scarce commodity. Comfort, Sweden’s largest confederation of plumbers, has helped fix the problem at the SOS Children’s Village in Dassa-Zoumé. Now there is clean water for the children and for the surrounding community.

In early 2011, the first joint project within a longstanding partnership started when SOS Children’s Villages Sweden brought Comfort’s plumbers to the nub of the issue – water sources contaminated by sand and dirt. The Swedish plumbers confirmed the problem through chemical analysis. They know that ultraviolet technology can eradicate the bacterium that causes children to suffer. To make the water potable, it was clear to them that wide pipes were essential to filter sand from the water. In effect, a customised water purification plant was needed.

When Comfort spread the message among its members, a lot of them showed interest and contributed to the project. With their local counterparts of SOS Children’s Villages, they exchanged ideas and expertise as they installed the system and arranged maintenance training. “It has given meaning and content to every child’s right to clean drinking water”, said Salimane Issifo. The National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Benin also highlighted that “after more than a month, diseases such as typhoid fever fell significantly in the community. The system has contributed to the quality of life of the children in our care, our staff and the local community”. What the men and women of Comfort gained from the experience was a sense of pride, in a plumbing job that made a real difference.

Photo: Comfort
Youth measuring up for success - Magnus Sundqvist of Comfort sharing skills with Benin's engineers of the future © Comfort

A  partnership that is not just about  water

Every day, 4,000 children around the world die because they cannot access healthy water. A community in Dassa-Zoumé are less likely to contribute to that grim statistic in future. Youth from the community gained from the educational element of the partnership where efficient energy use and sustainability is stressed. With SOS Children's Villages, Comfort improved the environment and put the Convention on the Rights of the Child into action by helping to provide clean drinking water.


Longstanding partnership with SOS Children’s Villages results in award

Besides making a difference to the lives of children in Benin, the goal for Comfort was to internally unite the confederation of plumbers and to increase the pride of belonging to the Comfort franchise. They succeeded – the plumbers found their purpose and also established internal fundraisings to further support SOS Children’s Villages. The internal tracking showed a 53% awareness of the project in Benin and a 50% increased perception of Comfort as a social responsible company. The pride of being a part of Comfort increased by 14%. As a result, Comfort was awarded with a Silver Lion in the category Internal Communication at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2012.