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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

UNICEF Executive Director joins Starbucks and Ethos ‘Walk for Water’

© Starbucks/Stuart Ramson
At the Walk for Water (from left): Water Aid America board member Ellen West; a representative of Starbucks; Ethos Water founder Peter Thum; and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, USA, 22 March 2007 – Marking international World Water Day, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman today joined more than 250 schoolchildren and hundreds of other New Yorkers in a ‘Walk for Water’ to highlight the global water crisis.

The event was organized by the Starbucks Coffee Company and its Ethos Water brand. Many Starbucks employees, customers and partners were encouraged to participate, along with children from three public schools in the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Brooklyn. Total participation was estimated at about 500.

The Walk for Water symbolized the difficult task people in developing countries must undertake every day to get safe drinking water for their families. On average, a three-mile daily journey is required, and women and children – particularly girls – are often the ones who carry the task.

“Access to clean drinking water is critical for the health of children around the world,” said Ms. Veneman. “In many parts of the world, women and children walk long distances to fetch water for their families for drinking, washing and cooking.”

© Starbucks/Stuart Ramson
Schoolchildren hold homemade signs at the Walk for Water in New York City, which symbolized the difficult task that women and children in developing countries must undertake daily to get drinking water for their families.

Preventable deaths

Following the walk, a special screening of two films, ‘Running Dry’ and ‘One Water’, was held at the Sunshine Cinema in lower Manhattan. Both films were free and open to the public. Both highlighted the world water crisis and what individuals can do to help alleviate the problem of water scarcity – the theme of this year’s World Water Day.

Although about 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe water since 1990, some 425 million children under the age of 18 continue to face shortages. Every year, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation contribute to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million children under five as a result of diarrhoea.

“There are about 1 billion people who don’t have access to clean water, 2.6 billion who don’t have access to adequate sanitation services,” said Starbucks Vice-President and Ethos Water founder Peter Thum. He added that the problems of water and sanitation are “intrinsically linked” and almost exclusively afflict the developing world.

Funding for water projects

Today’s Walk for Water was just one example of a long-term commitment by Starbucks and Ethos to raise awareness of the world water crisis. That commitment includes educating and informing customers and partners, and empowering them to play a personal role in alleviating world scarcity.

In addition, for each bottle of Ethos water purchased in Starbucks stores, five cents is contributed to the Ethos Water Fund of the Starbucks Foundation. These funds support Starbucks’ goal of contributing at least $10 million over five years to non-profit organizations involved in water issues.

The contributions will be invested in providing water access, sanitation and hygiene education in developing countries such as Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Honduras, India and Kenya, among others.




22 March 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the Walk for Water, a special event held in New York City in recognition of international World Water Day.
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