Matt Damon takes Davos stage to put water crisis on map

Lack of access to water affecting millions around the globe can be solved, actor and co-founder of water charity Matt Damon says at the World Economic Forum in Davos.VIDEO: REUTERS
Co-Founder of Water.org Matt Damon (left) during a penal session on the first day of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 17, 2017.
Co-Founder of Water.org Matt Damon (left) during a penal session on the first day of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 17, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

DAVOS, Switzerland (REUTERS) - American actor Matt Damon used Davos to drum up support for his water charity, Water.org, on Tuesday (Jan 17), after getting a new multi-million-dollar commitment from Belgian brewer Stella Artois.

"The poorest of the poor pay more than the middle class in many countries as they were shut out of the infrastructure," he told Reuters at a panel discussion hosted by the Anheuser-Busch InBev beer brand at the World Economic Forum.

Water.org is trying to raise funds of US$55 million (S$78 million) that would provide microloans to finance projects that build access to clean water in developing countries.

It has already deployed an US$11 million fund, Damon said. "People want to participate in their own solution, they want a hand up not a hand out," he said.

Stella Artois said it was committing US$4.8 million over four years to Water.org, at a time that AB InBev is moving into Africa, where access to clean water can be limited. "Water is our number one ingredient so we are very water-conscious," said Mr Ricardo Tadeu, AB InBev's head of Africa.

The brewer's support for the charity precedes AB InBev's US$100 billion-plus acquisition last year of SABMiller, which extended its reach in Africa as well Latin America. "We've been able to see tangible results and a tangible impact," said Ms Christina Choi, global brand vice-president, Stella Artois.

Stella will also continue its Buy A Lady A Drink campaign, in which proceeds from each sale of a limited-edition beer glass gets donated to the charity, providing the equivalent funding for five years of clean drinking water for one person.

Lack of access to water disproportionately affects women and children, as they often spend hours each day collecting it instead of going to school or working.

In the two years since the project was launched, Stella said that it has sold over 225,000 glasses and donated more than US$3 million to Water.org. It said that its new commitment aims to help 3.5 million people get access to clean water.

The brewer said it would also donate money for each six-pack and 12-pack of beer purchased in the United States and Britain.