‘Water Is PPE.’ Matt Damon and Gary White Clarify Why Clear Water Is Essential To Preventing Coronavirus

How do you fight coronavirus with out water? That drawback is a actuality going through 785 million individuals all over the world who lack entry to protected water.

The coronavirus pandemic has solely elevated the urgency of Matt Damon and social entrepreneur Gary White, who spoke with CNN political commentator Van Jones about this water disaster as a part of the TIME100 Talks: Discovering Hope collection on Thursday. Damon and White’s work with their organizations water.org and WaterEquity purpose to facilitate entry to water and sanitation round the world, White instructed Jones.With out clear water, you lack an important instrument for safeguarding your self from the virus: washing your arms. (And in the event you get sick, greater than 66% of healthcare services in low revenue nations additionally don’t have cleaning soap or operating water both, White added.)

Whereas step one in direction of combating coronavirus in rich nations has been acquiring private protecting tools (PPE), Damon instructed Jones that step one in lots of impoverished communities has been acquiring clear water. “Water is the very first degree,” he stated. “Water is PPE.”

In 2009, Damon and White co-founded their non-profit water.org to present inexpensive financing to impoverished communities to assist facilitate entry to protected, cost-effective water and sanitation. White instructed Jones that they view the poor communities that they work with as “a market to be served,” fairly than “an issue to be solved.”

The thought swiftly took off. In 2011, Damon and White had been acknowledged on TIME’s 100 Most Influential for his or her work with water.org. Lower than a decade later, in 2020, they’ve reached practically 30 million individuals. The non-profit has additionally mobilized practically two billion {dollars} in capital for its micro-loans, White shared, that are repaid at a fee of 99%.

Greater than 90% of water.org’s micro-loans go to ladies and ladies, who are sometimes tasked with water assortment and subsequently should skip or drop out of college, Damon stated. As soon as their neighborhood has entry to scrub water, the ladies who would have their day acquiring that water can as an alternative give attention to their research. “It’s the distinction between having a life and dwelling out your potential or simply being relegated to this brutal cycle of poverty,” he defined.

In 2017, Damon and White additionally co-founded WaterEquity, an influence funding fund supervisor that enables individuals to spend money on a portfolio that helps improve entry to water and sanitation. Round half of the water initiatives on the planet fail, Damon instructed Jones, actually because they weren’t put within the arms of the communities they’re meant to be serving. “We consider in empowering individuals to unravel their very own issues,” Damon stated.

Whereas a whole lot of their work has slowed down amid coronavirus, White stated they’ve additionally seen a push from native utilities to attempt to attain extra poor neighbors. The pandemic has exhibited how linked the world actually is and the way the well being of 1 neighborhood can have an effect on the well being of one other across the globe, he added.

“For me, if there’s some hope on this,” White shared, “it’s a hope that water will lastly begin to be acknowledged because the hero that it’s.”

This text is a part of #TIME100Talks: Discovering Hope, a particular collection that includes leaders throughout completely different fields sharing their concepts for navigating the pandemic. Need extra? Join for entry to extra digital occasions, together with stay conversations with influential newsmakers.