Diageo partners with WaterAid to provide clean water in Myanmar’s urban communities

Diageo Southeast Asia, a global leader in alcohol beverages, today announced a new partnership with WaterAid, an international non-governmental organisation that helps get clean water and decent toilets to communities around the world. The partnership will support the launch of a women-led project to provide access to clean water, improve livelihoods, and build stronger communities in townships of Yangon, Myanmar.

This project marks the first partnership between Diageo and WaterAid in Southeast Asia, and reflects a strong global partnership between the two organisations for many years. It is Diageo’s largest single investment in a sustainability and society project in Southeast Asia, underpinning the company’s commitment to deliver long-term positive social impact whilst growing its business responsibly. The project aims to give 10,000 people access to clean water in households and healthcare facilities through women’s social projects. A further 30,000 people will be reached indirectly through promoting clean water and prevention of diseases. 

In response to COVID-19, the project will follow Government rules on prevention and social distancing. WaterAid Myanmar has been running public awareness campaigns since February in response to the pandemic, which has included television broadcasts aimed at improving good hygiene awareness.

Starting in June, the project will provide educational and entrepreneurial opportunities in peri-urban Yangon, where a large number of women migrant workers from rural communities reside due to employment opportunities in garment factories. However, a large cohort of this population still struggles to access their basic need of clean drinking water and decent toilets. Responding to this, women will be encouraged to sell clean water produced by newly-built water treatment systems, enabling them to improve their livelihoods, stimulate the local economy, and provide clean water in their communities.  Alongside learning new business skills, there will be education on menstrual health and good hygiene, such as hand-washing with soap.

One in five people in Myanmar lack access to clean water. In rural communities a lack of water treatment and delivery systems has proved detrimental to women, children, and those with disabilities, and this project will provide such facilities to help improve access to safe drinking water.  Local university students will also undertake regular water testing and monitoring in and around the project areas as part of research on water quality data for development work and to promote the importance of clean and safe water in the communities.

The project, costing 200,000 GBP in total, will run over a 27-month period and WaterAid Myanmar will work in collaboration with the Yangon City Development Committee, relevant local government authorities and local communities to ensure areas in most need of clean and safe water are reached.

Apurvi Sheth, Managing Director of Diageo Southeast Asia, said, “Diageo is proud to work with WaterAid on this project in Myanmar. It has always been Diageo’s belief and part of our DNA to create value amongst communities where we work and operate in. Providing access to safe drinking water is not only a key UN Sustainable Development Goal, but also embedded as a priority in the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan. Through this project, we will work with WaterAid to create impactful and lasting change to benefit the livelihoods of people in the communities, especially women.”

Mr Shihab Uddin Ahamad, Country Director of WaterAid Myanmar, said, ”The best way to help women is to ensure their access to clean and safe water first. We are especially thrilled about this project where women will not only get clean and safe water, but also create an opportunity for them to become entrepreneurs and supply safe water for communities.

We are thankful to Diageo for their social commitment and support for this project. The global water and sanitation crisis needs a collaborative approach between NGOs, the private sector, and governments to ensure everyone has clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene by 2030. This project will serve as a step forward in achieving this goal.”

The UK Ambassador to Myanmar, His Excellency Dan Chugg, said, ”I am delighted that Diageo and WaterAid are partnering to deliver this worthy project. Improving the livelihoods and conditions for some of Myanmar’s most vulnerable workers can only be a good thing and aligns well with many of the initiatives the UK government is supporting in Myanmar. The timing of this programme, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also the monsoon season is an added bonus. I wish you every success.”