Actor Matt Damon sprinkled in some humor with talk of the global water crisis, channeling "Bubba" in his panel discussion at Clinton Global Initiative.
In good humor, Damon impersonated former President Clinton at the annual meeting aimed at tackling worldwide crises Tuesday in New York, pointing out that water solutions could be aiding more people.
"We could definitely reach hundreds of millions of people," Damon said, featured in the ABC clip above. The "Bourne Identity" actor then adopted Clinton's Southern drawl and quoted him as saying:
"Just keep running those numbers up. Just run ‘em up,'” in reference to initiatives aiding people who lack access to clean water.
Damon also pointed to the fact that moved him to become a clean water advocate: Every 21 seconds, a child under 5 dies because of a preventable water related disease.
“That [statistic] arrested me the most when I first heard it,” the Academy Award winner said.
Damon, together with fellow Water.org co-founder Gary White, explained how a lack of potable water and sanitation leads to fatal illnesses, but is also just as much of a women's issue, since women and girls are often assaulted while relieving themselves in public.
And while the pair agrees that there will never be “enough charity” to solve the water crisis, they remain optimistic about their progress, pointing specifically to the critical role microloans play.
In India, where 600 million people defecate outdoors, people often pay exorbitant interest rates to buy a toilet.
White said he met one woman who paid 125 percent interest to a loan shark so she could build her own toilet.
Women and girls often pay such hefty rates because it could be a matter of life or death.
Last May, for example, two teenage girls from Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state were gang raped and hanged from a mango tree in the middle of the night while they went out in the fields to relieve themselves, the Associated Press reported. Many women and girls wait until later in the evening, even though it’s less safe, to relieve themselves to avoid the embarrassment of going during the day.
To make toilets and clean water more accessible, Water.org –- which White and Damon co-founded in 2009 -- developed WaterCredit. It’s the first program of its kind to use microfinance tools enable struggling communities to address the global water crisis.
The program connects financial institutions with communities in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Uganda, Peru and Kenya so that individuals and households can get the loans they need to fund water connections and building toilets. As the loans are repaid, they can be redeployed to other people in need, reducing the need for subsidies, according to Water.org.
The program has directly helped 1.5 million and 91 percent of borrowers are women. To date, 99 percent of the loans have been repaid.
The program is efficient, and also helps boost the economy.
For every $1 invested in clean water and sanitation, there's a $5 to $8 return in GDP growth.
But financial benefits aside, Damon put into perspective how the water crisis should have long ago become obsolete.
“We solved this here in the West 100 years ago,” Damon said. “Just imagine if we solved AIDS tomorrow or cancer, and in 100 years, children were still dying by the millions -- it’s really unconscionable.