Gary White: Our Motivation Is the Fact that 80% of Diseases Is Water-Related

Gary White is a well-known ecologist from the USA. He is one of co-founders of Water.org. Together with his partner, Matt Damon, he helps people from poor regions of Earth obtain access to clean and safe drinking water. 

I think the first step in fighting world water crisis is education – making people aware of the problem and why it matters. Next, offer people practical ways they can make a difference in their day-to-day lives.

I had a powerful experience more than two decades ago in the slums of Guatemala City. The sources of drinking water shocked me the most as I saw how most people lived. These sources represented sickness and death, especially for children whose immune systems cannot cope with waterborne diseases.

Since that experience, I committed my life to finding the best avenue for addressing global water needs by co-founding WaterPartners in 1990. In July 2009 WaterPartners merged with Matt Damon’s H20 Africa, to become Water.org, Co-Founded by Matt Damon and myself. We continue to be motivated by the fact that 80 percent of sickness in the world is water-related, and it also causes four out of five deaths for children under age five.

Over the past 20 years, Water.org has worked with and transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Last year alone, we reached more than 266,000 people with access to these most basic life necessities. We currently have active programs in Haiti, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and India.

Water.org is also one of the first organizations in the world to use microcredit to help people in developing countries finance their own water systems. By making small loans to communities and individuals who do not have access to traditional credit markets, WaterCredit helps finance the upfront cost of water and sanitation systems. When repaid into a revolving fund, the multiplier effect means that many more people can be helped for the same philanthropic investment. And since users with a financial stake in their water supply projects have a greater incentive to ensure proper operations and maintenance, WaterCredit projects have built-in advantages for long-term sustainability.

To date, Water.org has facilitated the disbursement of more than $2.5 million in microcredit loans for water and sanitation, reaching more than 205,000 people. The cumulative global WaterCredit repayment rate is nearly 99 percent.

In 2010, Water.org launched a tool that allows anyone to follow real-time project progress in several villages in Haiti and see their support in action: http://my.Water.org.  We plan to highlight other geographies in my.Water.org in the future so that people can follow the progress of programs in their area of interest and see what goes into implementing a sustainable and holistic water and sanitation project.

Matt is very involved with Water.org. Thanks to his support, countless new people know about the water issue and Water.org’s work to address it. Matt’s involvement ranges from traveling to Water.org project sites in India and Ethiopia, to talking to people about Water.org and the water crisis at the Critics Choice Awards and on shows like Letterman, to participating in meetings focusing on Water.org strategy.

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