ACTIVATE The Global Citizen Movement To Tackle The Global Clean Water Crisis

People want to drink clean water even more than they want to breath clean air. But 1-in-10 people around the world still lack access to clean drinking water.

Nat Geo/P&G

This and other basic problems are the focus of a new six-episode docuseries, “ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement,” from P&G, Global Citizen and National Geographic that debuted this last month on the National Geographic channel.

The series aims to raise awareness of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, inequality and sustainability issues and mobilize global citizens to take action and drive meaningful change.

In the final episode of the series, Clean Water, which airs tonight (Oct 10th) at 10 PM eastern, actress and activist Uzo Aduba from “Orange is the New Black,” joined Global Citizen as they rallied millions around the world to push for clean drinking water and proper sanitation for the world’s most vulnerable people.

Watching Trevor Noah at Global Citizen events, it’s easy to think it’s all about celebraties and rock groups. But the real effects are to save peoples’ lives.

I spoke with Allison Tummon Kamphuis, P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water and Gender Equality Program Leader, about the progress made so far. She was optimistic.

“Fifteen years ago, over a million children died each year from diarrhea caused by various illnesses. But the efforts of programs like Global Citizen and P&G have cut this number dramatically, to about 250,000 children each year.”

Still too high, but clearly moving in the right direction.

Water scarcity means you have to drink whatever water you can get. The parasites in that water - whether bacteria, viruses or protozoa - cause diarrhea through various diseases.

The diarrhea dehydrates the body so much that, without proper medical car, and without a lot of clean water, the child will die. This vicious water cycle of death cannot be broken without clean water.

P&G

Procter & Gamble’s non-profit Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program partnered with National Geographic and Global Citizen to raise awareness, and funds, for this global water crisis. Because these last billion people without clean water are also the hardest to reach, the efforts cannot relax even in the face of ongoing success.

There are obvious ways to help. Basic education on hygiene and sanitation is critical to slow the contamination of existing water supplies, and many of the NGOs involved, as well as P&G and Global Citizen, are spending lots of effort doing this.

Engaging individual activists and donors around the world is what Global Citizen was formed to do, bringing ordinary people, who just want to help in any way they can, together with the NGOs and entities able to deliver funding and materials where they are most needed.

Governments are key, of course, and those governing the effected countries need to emplace infrastructure to provide water and sanitation. Piping, toilets, sewage treatment and medical care are essential for any long-term success. But so many of these governments are poor or are fighting other issues like civil strife and terrorism.

Private companies are critical for providing the innovative technologies that can be deployed easily in the field without any infrastructure. These are especially good for populations displaced by war, drought and extreme weather.

P&G has had a direct hand in success of the latter, having developed and distributed their Purifier of Water technology to millions of people who need it most.

Described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this technology is just a small packet of powder, little more than the size of a single sugar packet, that effectively kills bacteria and viruses, and removes parasites, arsenic, dirt and other solid materials.

With only a bucket, a spoon, a bit of cloth and a P&G packet, anyone can purify 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of filthy water in 30 minutes (see figure above). It uses a coagulant (iron sulfate) to remove contaminants from water by causing particulates to clump together, or flocculate, where they can be filtered through simple cloth. A disinfectant (calcium hypochlorite) kills bacteria and viruses.

The process is easy. The powder is stirred into the water for 5 minutes. This creates a visible flocculent or floc (sediment) that contains the contaminants in the water. The water sits for another 5 minutes, while the floc (sediment) settles.  The floc is separated from the clean water by pouring through a clean cloth into another bucket.

(Global Citizen/Ryan Gall)

After the clean water stands for 20 minutes to allow the disinfectant to kill any bacteria or viruses, it is ready to drink. The separated floc is disposed in a toilet, latrine or bushes away from children and animals.

The P&G Purifier of Water removes 99.99999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, and 99.9% of cysts (parasites like cryptosporidium and giardia).

‘Without clean drinking water, it’s much harder to keep their children healthy, have them get an education and provide a better life for their families,’ said P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard.

P&G provides the packets to global relief groups and to distributor partners at cost. P&G’s partners are then able to provide the packets to people who need them for only 10 cents each which includes the cost of the product, shipping, rural distribution and training. This cost is one of those things that Global Citizen is trying to raise funds for.

In emergencies, P&G’s humanitarian and emergency relief partners distribute the packets for free to those affected by a disaster.

“Since the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program was launched in 2004, P&G has worked with partners worldwide to deliver well over 15 billion liters of clean water to people who need it most,” said Kamphuis.

“We’ve made significant progress, but we have more work to do in helping more people understand the impact of the global water crisis.”

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I have been a scientist in the field of the earth and environmental sciences for 33 years, specializing in geologic disposal of nuclear waste, energy-related research,

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