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Closure

The mind-numbing 35 hours of travel from Sri Lanka to the US became even more painful as flu symptoms set-in. Oh well, makes it easier to sleep.

The final part of this specific mission is for some advocacy work in the US capitol. As part of the inauguration events, senior government officials attend some policy briefings. Through our P&G Washington office, we have hooked up with a Washington bi-partisan think-tank, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), who is sponsoring a policy briefing on the global importance of addressing the issue of safe drinking water.

Serendipitously, I had the opportunity to brief the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, just prior to this trip. We were both headed to the tsunami area, and he wanted to understand the potential of PUR to help. He was impressed with PUR and took several hundred of the sachets on his own trip to Sri Lanka. Senator Frist was also the keynote speaker for this policy briefing.

Senator Frist's comments provide an excellent ending to this saga. As a physician and Senate majority leader (as well as potential candidate for US President in 2008), he has a lot of credibility. His main points were:

First, lack of access to clean, safe drinking water can no longer be overlooked because of the 2 million children that die every year. Safe drinking water is a basic and fundamental right for everyone and needs the same attention and similar government funding that the global HIV/AIDS pandemic has received. Senator Frist made the link that people with HIV/AIDS in the developing world usually die from waterborne illness and that efforts like PUR can prevent this.

Second, frequently, the top killer of children after a disaster is unsafe drinking water. He spoke specifically of PUR's role in the tsunami, showed the picture of Mohammad Isram and his family getting PUR, and mentioned that thankfully there has not yet been widespread outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne illness. 

Third, unsafe drinking water takes its heaviest toll on children and women. Children because of the health impact and women because it is almost always their job to fetch the water and it can take hours to do this.  Here he stressed that the greatest need for safe drinking water is in Africa and that the death and disease that occur on an ongoing basis is far greater than that of the tsunami's impact.

And finally, Frist said that our efforts to provide safe drinking water has been overlooked and underestimated as a currency of peace. These humanitarian efforts show the oneness of humanity. And to this point, Senator Frist has sent a letter to US President George Bush urging a greater focus on the global water crisis.

Since this is my log and not Senator Frist's, I get the closing comments! I'd like to recap my personal highlights and provide a glimpse into the future

  1. Delivering PUR to the refugee camps in Galle and playing with the children. I was so relieved to see hope and not only shock in their eyes.
  2. Boarding the AmeriCares plane and seeing it loaded to the brim with the PUR sachets. It took several minor miracles and lots of work by P&G and all our partners to break the log jams of bureaucracy, so it was so rewarding to see it moving.
  3. Meeting a true hero, former astronaut and Senator John Glenn and his wife at the CSIS policy briefing.
  4. Seeing the P&G family pull together to address a crisis. I've seen this over and over in my career, but the team work and coming together never fails to move and impress me. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has contributed.

And now the future. We have lots more in store for you with our safe drinking water campaign. We'll be sharing videos of our on-the-ground work in Sri Lanka, Uganda, Haiti, and Pakistan. 

We'll also be announcing several new partnerships to provide safe drinking water. We'll teach you about our efforts to establish a new model to provide our product on a sustained basis.

Importantly, I've learned during the last few weeks that even though our public health partners and the outside world understands a need for P&G to recover costs for PUR, many of our own employees do not yet understand this. So, we'll provide some education on our vision to make this work sustainable by recovering costs and not simply donating product. Through this effort, we will be able to reach many, many more children than through donation.

Thank you again for your overwhelming support for this work. I am truly humbled and blessed to represent P&G in this work.  Now to take NyQuil and sleep....

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