1. The famine declaration in Somalia made news in the first week of August, highlighting the shortage of resources in the region, among them the availability of clean drinking water. Which methods have stood out to you as the most effective in providing safe drinking water in the region?
We often take the water we drink for granted, but nearly a billion people worldwide go without this basic resource. Every 20 seconds a child dies from drinking dirty, unsafe water and I believe it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent those deaths from happening.
Providing safe drinking water for a billion people in need is a big challenge. Part of the problem is the lack of infrastructure and well-designed water and sanitation systems in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, those are long-term problems that require long-term solutions. In the meantime, we need to focus on saving lives now.
At PSI, we’ve found the most effective way to get safe drinking water to people in need is through household water treatments – it’s an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution that gives everyone the opportunity to treat unsafe water in their homes. Here is one way we’re making this possible: Procter & Gamble, one of our corporate partners, has a highly effective water purification product called PUR. Since the vast majority of the population in the developing world goes to private sector providers for health care, PSI makes sure that PUR is available at an affordable price in private sector shops, kiosks and pharmacies.
We make the products available and affordable through the private sector, and use commercial marketing techniques to increase demand. This means we are able to create an attractive market for the private sector and thereby increase the likelihood that more private shops will stock PUR and more people can access it,
At the same time, we know the public sector is an equally important player in health so we often make our products available through the public sector as well. After the earthquake in Haiti, for example, PUR and other water purification products were available for free through the public sector for those who couldn’t afford to access it in the private sector. This combination of public and private sector distribution is undoubtedly one of the most effective methods out there. PSI has already provided more than 40 billion liters of safe drinking water to people in need through these channels.
2. There is a push now to do away with the traditional forms of charitable giving in developing countries. What forms of assistance are moving in to take their place?
My personal passion is convincing corporations to become our partners in health. Non-profits can really benefit from strategic corporate partnerships and corporations get a lot out of those partnerships as well.