Poverty, pollution, health and WASH: Can interlinked problems offer interlinked solutions?

Poverty, pollution, health and WASH: Can interlinked problems offer interlinked solutions?

March 16, 2024

The relationships across poverty, pollution, health, and WASH are interdependent and cyclical. Poverty often limits access to WASH and Waste services and infrastructure, which creates a breeding ground for fatal yet preventable infectious diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. Being ill from inadequate WASH and Waste services in turn reduces productivity and increases healthcare costs, oftentimes pushing individuals and families even deeper into poverty. Out-of-pocket healthcare payments in Nigeria led to a 0.8% increase, or added about 1.8 million people to the country’s poverty headcount in 2010 alone.

Soso Care is an insur-tech social enterprise that is taking this cycle of poverty, health, and WASH, and using it to spin a new reality. 

Soso Care’s business model enables people living below the poverty line to collect and use recyclable garbage as a means of payment for health insurance premiums. Their model enables slum dwellers, pregnant women, and children living in urban areas to have access to basic healthcare including vaccinations, pharmacy subsidies, tele-diagnosis with certified doctors, and insurance coverage

As about 97% of Nigeria's population of over 210 million people don't have health insurance and Nigeria generates about 2.5 billion tonnes of plastic waste annually, the positive impact of the Soso Care model could be huge across both environmental and social measures. Their impact numbers already show a promising start: as of 2023, Soso Care has provided insurance coverage for 9,000 disadvantaged people by collecting and recycling 240,000Kg of plastic. 

“At Soso Care, we aim to kill 2 birds with 1 stone by using environmental issues of pollution to solve the problem of healthcare access for low-income populations”, says Nonso Opurum, Founder and CEO of Soso Care. 

The strength of their model has already attracted international attention, garnering the Soso Care team awards like the 2020 World Innovation Summit on Health (WISH) Innovation Spark Award and the 2022 African Insurance Innovation Award

Corporate partnerships are also helping Soso Care to strengthen their offering and move towards the goal of reaching 50 million underserved families in the coming years. For example, a B2B partnership with insurance underwriting companies enables Soso Care to offer the most affordable micro health insurance covers in Nigeria, with premiums costing less than $1. 

As a cohort member of Reckitt’s Fight for Access accelerator, Soso Care team leaders like Nonso Opurum are given capacity-building sessions to unlock barriers for social business growth like training in impact measurement & management and investor readiness. Soso Care is also in conversation with Reckitt brand leaders to explore collaboration across recycling initiatives. 

While global challenges like poverty, healthcare, and WASH are interlinked in problematic ways, Soso Care makes a case for how this intricacy can be leveraged to be used as part of the solution as well. On World Recycling Day, their example serves as a strong reminder that tackling one issue such as waste reduction holds the potential for positive impact across seemingly unrelated sectors. 

If the relationships across poverty, pollution, health, and WASH are interdependent and cyclical, is it possible that the solution to these problems can only be solved by building and sustaining cross-sector partnerships that are interdependent and cyclical as well?

The Fight for Access Accelerator is designed around this belief - that global issues can only be solved through collaborative action. The accelerator’s award-winning approach to create access to WASH combines the innovation of social entrepreneurs with the expertise of Reckitt’s corporate employees, and is delivered with the impact experience and global network of Yunus Social Business. The Fight for Access accelerator has been launched in South Africa, Brazil, and Nigeria, with a long-term commitment to empowering the world’s best WASH solutions through social entrepreneurs.

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