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Paul Polman addresses the WaterAid Annual Supporters Meeting

Universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is key to eradicating poverty and enabling inclusive, sustainable economic development, Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman told WaterAid’s Annual Supporters Meeting on 10 October 2014.

Lifesaving & life changing work

Without affordable drinking water, clean safe toilets and basic hygiene practices, millions are caught in a debilitating cycle of ill health and diminished prospects. Women and girls are most acutely affected – often spending hours each day collecting water, dropping out of school due to a lack of private facilities and risking attack and humiliation defecating in the open.

Paul says: “If we are to eradicate poverty by 2030 we must reach the 783 million currently without access to clean drinking water and the 2.5 billion without sanitation.

“It’s not just about the provision of facilities and infrastructure, but also making the links between WASH and development areas such as nutrition and health, educating people about the importance of good sanitation and hygiene and teaching people life-saving behaviours such as handwashing with soap.”

Creating a brighter future

Paul outlined how progress will be enabled by public policy which encourages action - such as the inclusion of targets around universal access to WASH and ending open defecation within the United Nation’s Post-2015 agenda, which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Multi-stakeholder partnerships and people-centred solutions which empower local communities are also central to driving sustainable progress at scale.

Meanwhile, individuals around the world have a role to play by raising awareness of the sanitation crisis and asking their governments to support WASH in the Post-2015 negotiations.

“We must all speak out, take action and join together to ensure we deliver a world where everyone, everywhere has access to water, sanitation and hygiene,” Paul concluded. “WaterAid will continue to be at the forefront of this movement and you can count on Unilever's full support.”

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