Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveled to Burma on Monday to personally oversee the U.S.-based company Procter and Gamble (P&G) deliver its six billionth liter of clean water as part of an initiative the firm began in 2010.
Clinton traveled to Gway Tauk Chaung village in Pathein, Burma, at the invitation of the director of P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program, Dr. Greg Allgood.
The CSDW program is an initiative P&G has undertaken with the help of the Clinton Global Initiative, an NGO run by former President Clinton, which aims to deliver two billion liters of water each year across the world through 2020. With the ultimate goal of saving one life every hour between 2010 and 2020, the company estimates that the clean water it has already delivered “has saved 32,000 lives and prevented 250 Million days of diarrheal illnesses across 71 countries.”
The CSDW program has been especially active in Burma where natural disasters frequently cause clean water shortages. For three years after Cyclone Nargis left many Burmese without adequate drinking water in 2008, P&G provided the country with over 31 million liters of clean water. Since 2011, the company has also distributed over one million satchels of its water purification powder, with each satchel capable of transforming up to 10 liters of dirty water into water that is safe for consumption.
According to the World Health Organization, lack of clean drinking water is one of the leading causes of Diarrheal disease, which is the second most common cause of death in children under the age of five, killing some 760,000 children around the world each year. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 4,000 children die each day around the world from a lack of drinking water or basic sanitation, with improper hygiene being another leading cause of the disease.
In a speech she gave at an event in Yangon during her recent trip, Clinton, who is a board member of her father's initiative, noted that 40,000 children die of Diarrhea annually in Burma alone. Discussing the disease, she added:
"It’s unconscionable not only for scores of people to die from a disease that is completely preventable, but also to stand on the sidelines when we have the knowledge and the means to really do something about it. Any of us with the opportunity and tools to make a difference in the lives of others have an imperative to do so."
During the visit, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and P&G also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), pledging to develop a new program aimed at improving health conditions for women and children in Burma. In a joint statement announcing the MOU, USAID and P&G said:
"Will seek to develop a multi-year, multiprogram Global Development Alliance, which will make initial investments of at least $2 million on health projects aimed at providing clean drinking water, promoting better hygiene behaviors, and building capability linked to improvements in delivery of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services."
As part of the new MOU, P&G has agreed to provide Myanmar with at least 200 million liters of water over the next two years.
Zachary Keck is assistant editor of The Diplomat.