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At a glance: United States of America

Celebrating the Tap Project to provide safe water for the world’s children

© UNICEF/2008/Markisz
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman speaks at the Tap Project launch held at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 20 March 2008 – As a glittery New York City event last night celebrated the success and the future of the Tap Project, rain poured down outside. The weather was just one reminder of the importance of bringing safe water to children around the world – the ultimate goal of this initiative.

Among those in attendance were UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, US Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Caryl Stern, Esquire magazine Editor-in-Chief David Granger and UNICEF Ambassadors Lucy Liu and Marcus Samuelsson.

New York City tap water was prominently available at the event, which was held at the Hearst Tower.

The power of one good idea

The Tap Project was created as part of Esquire’s December 2006 ‘Best & Brightest’ issue, to raise awareness about a lack of safe drinking water worldwide. Designed to create buzz over a necessity that so many people in the industrialized world take for granted, the project went on to raise $100,000 in partnership with the US Fund for UNICEF in 2007. The goal is to raise $1 million this year.

“It amazes me that one good idea can have that kind of power,” said Mr. Granger.

Last year, the Tap Project involved more than 300 of New York City’s top restaurants. This year, it has gone national. From Dallas, Texas, to Seattle, Washington, more than 2,200 restaurants are taking part in the project during World Water Week, 16-22 March.

© UNICEF/2008/Markisz
At the Tap Project event (from left): US Fund for UNICEF President Caryl Stern, Esquire magazine Editor-in-Chief David Granger, UNICEF Ambassador Lucy Liu, Esquire publisher Stephen Jacoby and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

Participating restaurants raise money by charging customers $1 for a glass of tap water that would normally be free. The funds help UNICEF save lives by providing drinking water to children in developing nations. For every dollar raised, a child can have safe drinking water for 40 days, according to the project’s organizers.

A growing global problem

“Every year, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation contribute to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five,” Ms. Veneman said at the Tap Project event.

“Millions of women and children, young girls in particular, continue to spend hours fetching and carrying water for their families,” she continued. “The time they spend on this often keeps girls out of school and women away from jobs that could help provide money to feed their families.

“Increasing access to clean and safe water will not only save young lives, it will also help break the vicious circle of poverty,” Ms. Veneman concluded.

Startling facts about water

In fact, more than 2.6 billion people worldwide – about 40 per cent of the world’s population – lack basic sanitation facilities, and over 1 billion people still use unsafe sources of drinking water.

These startling facts were brought home to Ms. Liu, who attended last night’s event fresh from a trip to Côte d'Ivoire, where she witnessed firsthand the threat to child survival caused by lack of access to safe water.

“I’ve travelled to a lot of places, and the common denominator is the children,” said Ms. Liu. “The children don’t ask for a lot. They’re incredibly open and available.”

Ms. Liu encouraged all those present to pledge to themselves – and to the world’s children – that they will take steps to make positive change, including participation in the Tap Project. “To be able to make a difference,” she said, “it’s something we all can be a part of.”

Added Mr. Samuelsson: “We need you guys and your friends to go out and, yes, order champagne, but definitely order water!”





UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the Tap Project in New York City in March 2007, before the safe-water campaign went national.
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