A packet full of life

Katie Brickman
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Procter and Gamble brings clean water to developing world

One in seven people around the world do not have access to clean water.

The diseases that are caused by contaminated water kill more children every day than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

“It is hard to believe, but every day, there is still 1,600 children who are dying from contaminated water and the diseases that it causes,” said Allison Tummon-Kamphuis, leader of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program with Procter and Gamble. “Every day, safe water is a struggle for a billion people or more. That is a very large number.”

Tummon-Kamphuis has been the face of this program for the last six years, but has been a part of Procter and Gamble (P&G) for 18 years.

She is originally from Belleville, Ont. and got her undergraduate nursing degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

She began working for P&G in Toronto, doing clinical research for cardiac mediations. Thirteen years ago, she moved to Cincinnati, working out of the company’s head office.

“Having a clinical background being a nurse and a health professional, it is extremely helpful in the work I do now,” said Tummon-Kamphuis. “I work with many of our different public partners and international development partners who are addressing the water crisis around the world, both in rural communities where people don’t have access to clean water and in times of disaster when the water they do have has been highly contaminated.”

Almost a decade ago, P&G was able to help change the landscape on the water crisis.

“In the early 2000s, P&G was working and looking in the water areas and products that we could create and market,” explained Tummon-Kamphuis.

Their scientists, along with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came up with a small packet that has been changing lives ever since.

“With some impressive chemistry, we were able to create a mini water treatment plant in a packet,” she said.

P&G tried to market the packet, but found that it was a real challenge to reach the people that really needed it, as well as educate why clean water was important.

“We didn’t have the best success when we were doing that all by ourselves,” said Tummon-Kamphuis. “We realized that if we partnered with the groups that were the experts in reaching those rural areas and educating communities, we would be much more successful. From those partnerships 10 years ago, the program was born.”

So, the world’s largest consumer product company began working with groups like Save the Children, Care, World Vision and UNICEF, among others to provide clean water to those that need it most.

“We realized that we could help save lives with our innovative packets, but we really needed to work with partners. Instead of being a commercial product, what it turned into was our global corporate social responsibility program,” she said.

With those partnerships, P&G is on the ground in about 80 countries and reaches 180 total through distributors around the world.

“Over the past 10 years, these packets have provided clean drinking water in over 75 countries — many of them in Africa, Asia and Latin America … places around the world where access to clean water or natural disasters often occur,” she said.

P&G celebrated a major success in April, when they reached the seven billion litre milestone — an equivalent of a litre of clean water for every person on the planet.

“That growth is all due to our partnerships and the people wanting to address the clean water issue around the world,” said Tummon-Kamphuis.

Inside of those four-gram packets are two-main ingredients — iron sulfate and chlorine, which clean 10 litres of dirty water.

“The iron sulfate is a coagulant … it acts as a dirt magnet to pull the dirt and other parasites that might be in the water,” she explained. “Through stirring, that all settles at the bottom and you pour it through a cloth.”

The chlorine disinfects the water and after 30 minutes, it is clean and safe to drink.

Doing the work that she does has taken Tummon-Kamphuis all over the world and every day she is inspired by seeing the positive changes these packets can provide to communities.

“All around the world and as I travel, it is great to see the change that clean water can make for children and their families,” she said. “We are so blessed in North America and Canada specifically. Knowing that we can make a difference inspires me every day.”

Despite providing 1.4 billion litres of water each year, P&G are still pushing for more.

“We want to save one life every hour. That means we will need to provide two billion litres of clean drinking water every year. That goal is by 2020,” she said. “We are expanding our efforts by working with more partners and with more countries to provide more clean drinking water.”

There are many ways to get involved and help with this initiative, but most people are already doing that by buying groceries.

“P&G and Wal-Mart in Canada have partnered so that Canadians can help,” she said.

From April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, by purchasing P&G products, one will be donating one day of clean drinking water ($0.02US) to the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Fund.

Tummon-Kamphuis explained, It is every day products that people use like Tide, Duracell batteries, Pantene shampoo and all of those products that P&G makes and Canadians love. Now by buying those, they can help out with the clean drinking water efforts around the world.”

For more information on the program, visit www.csdw.org

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

Organizations: McMaster University, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wal-Mart World Vision UNICEF Safe Drinking Water Fund Duracell

Geographic location: Belleville, Hamilton, Toronto Cincinnati Canada Africa Asia Latin America North America

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