Honored at Clinton Global Initiative

UNC was awarded the P&G Sustainability Partnership Award to recognize work providing access to clean water for people living with HIV

By Lisa Chensvold

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was recognized with a Procter & Gamble Sustainability Partner Award for its work bringing clean drinking water to people living with HIV/AIDS.

From left: Greg Allgood, Myron Cohen, Bill Clinton, and Dimitri Panayotopoulos at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.

From left: Greg Allgood, Myron Cohen, Bill Clinton, and Dimitri Panayotopoulos at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.

The award was presented in New York City at the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual gathering of global leaders who come together to solve the world’s toughest problems.  P&G vice-chair, Dimitri Panayotopoulos, presented the award to Myron Cohen, director of the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID), who accepted it on behalf of the University. Former President Bill Clinton was there to congratulate Dr. Cohen for his lifetime of work on HIV/AIDS.

In 2009 UNC began partnering with Children’s Safe Drinking Water, a cornerstone of P&G’s philanthropic program, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the global issue of clean water and working with others to solve this problem. CSDW distributes the P&G Water Purification Packet, an inexpensive powder that purifies water with just a little stirring. It was named by Popular Mechanics as one of the top 10 world-changing innovations of 2008.

The partnership between UNC and P&G was forged by Cohen and Carolina alumnus Dr. Greg Allgood, who spent many years working at P&G and founded CSDW, which he also directed until earlier this year.*  Allgood was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from UNC in 2012.

Clean drinking water is especially critical for people with compromised immune systems, such as those living with HIV. It is a sad irony that millions of people now have access to life-saving anti-AIDS drugs, but for many of them, the water they drink to swallow the pills makes them sick with parasites and other waterborne diseases.

The IGHID began distributing storage buckets and P&G purification packets to patients receiving treatment for HIV at UNC Project-Malawi, its flagship research, care and training site in the capital city of Lilongwe. The institute collaborates with the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program to host two undergraduate students per year in Malawi as part of their summer enrichment experience. The students help with education and distribution for the clean drinking water program.

A new USAID-UNC initiative, Safeguard the Family, expanded the clean water efforts to many more health clinics, as part of its aim to improve maternal and child health in the central region of Malawi.

“The P&G water purification packets have been distributed to 134 health facilities and more than 15,000 households have benefited,” said Innocent Mofolo, administrative manager at UNC Project-Malawi and project leader for Safeguard the Family. “It has greatly improved the quality of life for people living with HIV by reducing their incidence of diarrheal diseases,” Mofolo said.

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In September of 2012, UNC and P&G announced that the two organizations together delivered the 5 billionth liter of water cleaned with the P&G Water Purification Packet. The moment was captured by a team of UNC student videographers, journalists and photographers who traveled to Malawi with the organization Students of the World.

Since 2009, P&G has recognized some of its most valued partners for their support of the company’s social and environmental sustainability initiatives. Past winners include CARE, CDC, PSI, Save the Children, UNICEF, USAID, and World Vision.

“We are very proud to honor UNC this year for our collaboration with the university in our CSDW work,” said CSDW director Allison Tummon Kamphuis. “Together our collective efforts are shining a spotlight on the global water crisis, providing clean drinking water to thousands of people in Malawi, and changing public health policy through advocacy efforts to help prevent the leading cause of death—diarrheal illness—in people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

This award comes in second year of Carolina’s campus-wide theme, “Water in our World.”

Other campus units who have partnered with P&G and CDSW include the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Water Institute at UNC, the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

*Allgood is currently a distinguished visiting senior fellow at the UNC Global Research Institute and vice president of World Vision Water.