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Water & Sanitation

Lionel Messi Is Helping 2,000 Kenyans Get Safe Water and Food

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations says Kenya is a chronically water scarce country, with only 56% of the population accessing safe water. Join us in taking action to ensure universal access to water here.

Lionel Messi announced over the weekend that the Leo Messi Foundation has donated 23 million Kenya shillings (about US$227,000) to help children and families in Kenya access clean water, safe sanitation facilities, and food.

News site the Kenyans reports that the foundation will work with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to build water pumps and distribute 4,000 nutritional supplements.

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“The Leo Messi Foundation maintains its commitment to young people, donating €200,000 to offer its assistance, in a project run alongside UNICEF with the construction of a drinking water pump and the distribution of nutritional supplements amongst children in Kenya,” the foundation announced on Twitter.

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According to American nonprofit, 41% of Kenyans get their drinking water from ponds, wells, and rivers, and only nine out of 55 public water service providers in Kenya provide a continuous water supply.

This leaves “people to find their own ways of searching for appropriate solutions to these basic needs,” the organisation adds.

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Kenya also has significant issues around ensuring that everyone can access good, safe sanitation, with the UN reporting that 16 million Kenyans don't have proper sanitation facilities.

“Approximately 80% of hospital attendance in Kenya is due to preventable diseases and about 50% of these illnesses are water, sanitation, and hygiene related,” according to the UN.

Meanwhile, an estimated 10 million people are food insecure. Two years ago, the Kenyan government declared a state of emergency after a drought left 4 million people with food shortages.

The Leo Messi Foundation’s collaboration with UNICEF will give two liters of water every school day to the benefitting children, and the money will also go towards building new bathrooms in schools.

As a result, 2,000 people are expected to get access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.

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Argentine footballer Messi, who plays for Barcelona, is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and says his own experience of poverty as a child inspired him to use his status and fortune, as one of the biggest soccer stars in the world, to help improve the lives of children.

This isn't the first time his foundation has collaborated with UNICEF on support children-focussed projects. In 2017, thanks to a donation from the foundation, UNICEF was also able to install 20 new prefabricated classrooms in Syria — enabling more than 1,600 children affected by the conflict to attend school. 

And in December 2018, the foundation donated 300 backpacks filled with sanitary products for people in Chaco, in his home country of Argentina. The backpacks were delivered by UNICEF, and are estimated to have impacted the lives of over 40,000 people.